Mexican Independence Day
The importance of Independence Day for Mexicans cannot be underestimated. It is the most widely celebrated festival in Mexico every year. If your Mexico vacation coincides with this festival it will be very hard to miss it!
Mexican Independence was attained in 1821 on September 27th but it is celebrated on the 15th and 16th of September to commemorate the Grito de Dolores. In the early hours of the morning on September 16th 1810 a priest named Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the church bell in the small town of Dolores and urged the townspeople to rise up against the Spanish crown. Mexicans celebrate the anniversary of the grito as the spark which ignited the future action and heroes of the Mexican War of Independence.
In Mexico City on the night of the 15th of September the President comes out onto the balcony of the Palacio Nacional, rings Hidalgo's bell and cries down to the gathered crowds below who respond with various gritos such as: Viva Mexico! Viva Hidalgo! Viva nuestra independencia! Fireworks and cheering follow. On the 16th festivities continue with parades and various events.
Day of the Dead
Every year from October 31st to November 2nd Mexicans celebrate El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Mexicans believe that their dead relatives return to them during this window of time each year.
Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo is not as widely celebrated in Mexico as it is in the U.S.A. This festival is sometimes confused with Mexican Independence Day because it involves a celebration of Mexican culture. A reason for the American focus on this celebration could be due to the large Hispanic population in the U.S. Another possible reason is that France’s occupation of Mexico could have been a tactic to influence the outcome of the U.S Civil War in favor of the Confederates which would have significantly altered the course of American history.
In 1861 French forces invaded Mexico and eventually took the capital in 1863. On May 5th 1862 a large French army was defeated by a small Mexican force in Puebla. This victory became a symbol of resistance for the Mexicans during the French occupation and has remained a patriotic celebration ever since particularly in Puebla where the battle took place. The French withdrew forces from Mexico in 1866.
Christmas and Easter
Christmas is a national holiday in Mexico. The celebrations are a mixture of Roman Catholic and cultural traditions. Children receive gifts on Christmas Eve and families create nativity scenes, often placing the figure of baby Jesus into the scene at midnight on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is Las Posadas where families take it in turns to be the house where a party is held after the party goers are turned away from other houses along the way to the hosts. This reenacts the story of Mary and Joseph being turned away from lodgings.
Since nearly 90% of Mexican population are Roman Catholic, the Easter holiday is also a very important religious holiday. Senema Santa -- the week before Easter -- is characterized with processions and passion plays throughout the country. Festivals in the regions of Taxco, Pátzcuaro, Oaxaca and San Cristobal de las Casas are particularly grand.
Our Lady Guadalupe's Feast Day
The shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, an icon of the Virgin Mary, is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. Millions of people visit this shrine every year with a high point in numbers being December 12th on Our Lady Guadalupe's Feast Day. Lady Guadalupe is a pivotally important figure in Mexico. This was the image that converted many Mexican's to Christianity and countless revolutionary figures have evoked her name and image to symbolize the Mexican nation and people.
Guelaguetza dance festival in Oaxaca
The Oaxaca Guelaguetza is celebrated on the last two Mondays of July unless one day falls on July 18th in which case it is postponed for one week. The celebration takes place both in the capital and in surrounding villages. The focus of the festival is traditional dancing in full costume, parades and many other events during and around the festival days. The celebrations feature pre-Hispanic food, dress and customs although some Catholic aspects have blended in such as the timing of the festival coinciding with the feast day of Our Lady of the Mount Carmel. The festival is a celebration of indigenous culture and ways of life. Guelaguetza is a Zapotec word meaning “offering” which refers to the traditional way celebrations were the result of a whole community pitching in with contributions of food or alcohol.
Other large festivals include: Día de la Candelaria or Candlemas, Dia de la Revolution (marking the end of the Revolution in 1910) and Benito Juarez’s Birthday.