5 Mexican Holidays You’ve Never Heard of Before
While most have heard of Cinco de Mayo, did you know there are a number of more significant holidays celebrated in Mexico every year? In this holiday guide, we’ll take a look at 5 of the most culturally significant holidays celebrated in Mexico every year. We’ll even go over how to celebrate each of them so you and your family and friends can celebrate for yourself!
Dia de los Muertos
When is dia de los Muertos celebrated? – October 31st-November 2nd
Dia de los Muertos, or the day of the dead, celebrates the unity of life and death. While it may sound morbid, the holiday recognizes the circle of life and celebrate death as a necessary part of life.
The celebration originates from multiple holidays unique to the many cultures that have made Mexico the vibrant country it is today. This includes:
- Mayan culture, which refers to the holiday as Hanal Pixán. The holiday is still celebrated by the Mayan people. The main distinction from the rest of the Dia de los Muertos celebrations is the cuisine. Mucbipollo, or a tamale type food cooked in an underground pit called a pib, is the dish Hanal Pixán is best known for.
- Aztec culture, where the day was dedicated to Mictecacihuatl, the queen of the underworld. This version of the holiday was celebrated for an entire month starting in early August.
- Spanish Catholic culture traditionally celebrated this holiday as All Saints Day on November 1st. This holiday is a celebration of the Christian saints that have no dedicated holiday, and the connection between those in heaven and those on earth.
How is it celebrated?
Dia de los Muertos is celebrated over 3 days:
- October 31st (All Hallows Eve): Families decorate and clean the altars of relatives who have passed, inviting them back down to earth. If the family does not live near the altar of their passed family members, they’ll often set up a shrine in their home with pictures of the dead. At midnight, the souls of the departed make their way back down to join the living.
- November 1st (All Saints Day): Families celebrate with the spirits and celebrating the children who have passed, referred to as angelitos.
- November 2nd (All Souls Day): The life of adult family members passed are celebrated and remembered.
While this seems like a somber affair, Dia de los Muertos is all about celebrating life and is simply how Mexican culture views death.
Dia de los Muertos food and decorations
Food and decorations are two very large parts of any Dia de los Muertos celebration.
In addition to eating the many foods of Dia de los Muertos, you also offer treats to the dead by leaving it on their altar. Because of this, many often make dishes their passed relatives loved. Some common foods found around the holiday include:
- Pan de muerto, or a sweet bread of the dead
- Agua de jamaica, or hibiscus flower water
- Caramel flan
- Calabaza en Tacha, or candied pumpkin
Decorations are also a big part of the holiday, both on the altars of the dead and throughout festival celebrations. Some common decorations include:
- Skulls, which you will find everywhere during dia de los muertos. The most recognizable style of skull found is the Calavera Catrina.
- Calacas, or skeleton figures based on Aztec imagery.
- Calaveras, which translates to skulls but is often in reference to satirical poems which serve as an epitaph for those living as a way to poke fun at loved ones.
Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe
When is Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe celebrated? – December 12th
Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe is celebrated on the day the Virgin Guadalupe, the mother of christ and patron saint of Mexico, appeared in 1531. The siting took place in a suburb of Mexico city by a man named Juan Diego. The site now houses the Basilica of Guadalupe, where a celebration takes place yearly on the holiday.
The siting is said to have been a central part to the creation of the Mexico that exists today, as it is said to have helped convert the indigenous people of Mexico to Christianity. The image of the Virgin Guadalupe has been depicted throughout the country’s history. It was even used by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla when revolting against the Spanish in 1810.
This nationally recognized holiday draws people from across the country to Basilica of Guadalupe.
How is Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe celebrated?
In addition to the nearly 800,000 people who show up at the Basilica of Guadalupe to celebrate, Mexicans around the country celebrate the day with candles and other offerings to honor the saint.
Most people attend mass and spend a couple hours in church reflecting. Afterwards, the festivities begin with a feast and celebrating with friends and family. There are often parades and musical performances and at times even bull fights! Food is another large part of the holiday, with bunuelos, a delicious layered honey pastry, a particularly common holiday treat.
The festive and happy spirit throughout the entire day is thought to be a sign of respect to the Virgin of Guadalupe, who then protect the observers throughout the year.
Dia de la Independencia
When is Dia de la Independencia celebrated? – September 16th
While many people think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican independence day, it’s simply not true. That day belongs to Dia de la Independencia, which is celebrated on September 16 in honor of the day Mexico gained its independence from Spain.
The holiday is also known as El Grito de La Independencia, or the cry of independence, due to the independence movement leader, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s, chant of “Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico!”
How is Dia de la Independencia celebrated?
Much like the 4th of July in the USA, Dia de la Independencia is known for patriotic displays by the Mexican people. The holiday generally starts on the 15th of September, where citizens gather in town squares to scream “Viva Mexico! “ at the stroke of midnight. It’s then followed the next day with fireworks, dancing, and parades in town squares to celebrate the holiday.
Benito Juárez Day
When is Benito Juarez Day celebrated? – The third Monday of March
Considered a national hero, Benito Juárez was the first indigenous man to be president of Mexico. He served the country of Mexico from 1857-1872.
Among the notable achievements of Benito Juárez’s time as president include:
- Resisting French occupation and restoring the Mexican Republic
- Fighting for the rights of indigenous people in Mexico
- Reducing the Catholic church’s influence on politics
- Presiding over a period known as La Reforma, a time rife with political and social revolution that lead to the modernization of Mexico
How is Benito Juárez day celebrated in Mexico?
Most businesses, schools, and banks close for the day, creating a long weekend for many in Mexico. Political events and celebrations often take place, the biggest of which is in San Pablo Guelatao, Benito Juárez’s hometown. Some towns will have firework displays to go along with dancing and other festive activities!
When is Revolution Day celebrated? – November 20th
Revolution day commemorates the Mexican revolution, which started in 1910 and lasted for 10 years until 1920. The revolution was initiated in response to Mexican President Porfirio Diaz, who had ruled for 35 years. The revolution started when Francisco Madero crystalised the sentiment of the Mexican people by standing up to Diaz’s authoritarian rule.
Madero was jailed after trying to run against Diaz in the presidential elections, but his movement eventually defeated Diaz in 1911, when Diaz left office for Paris to live in exile until his death. While Madero was assassinated 2 years later, Mexican presidents can now serve just a single 6 year term. The time period is credited as a monumental moment in the development of what is today modern day Mexico.
How is Revolution Day celebrated?
Much like Benito Juárez day, many businesses and organizations are closed, with parades and civic ceremonies throughout Mexico to recognize the revolutions importance in the country’s history. The biggest parade has traditionally taken place in Mexico City’s Zocalo, or main central square. It is now held in Campo Marte military field.
In recent years, retail stores have developed sales centered around the holiday similar to “black friday” deals in US. The promotions are often referred to as “el buen fin,” or the good end.
Celebrate Mexican culture from your own home!
You don’t have to travel all the way to Mexico to celebrate Mexican holidays yourself. Celebrate from wherever you call home with authentic Mexican silver jewelry of your own!