Mexico’s Most Famous Landmarks

Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre) Mexico.Mexico remains one of the most popular vacation destinations for families, friends and couples, attracting more than 20 million visitors each year. Boasting palm-fringed beaches, miles of turquoise waters, and adrenaline-pumping adventures at every turn, it’s no wonder so many Americans head south of the border for some much needed R&R.

Endless sunshine and beautiful coastal cities account for much of the country’s tourism appeal, but Mexico’s rich cultural heritage and colonial cities offer interesting landmarks and points of interest.  Did you know that Mexico has the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in all of Latin America? From mighty geologic formations to ancient Mayan cities, here’s a roundup of famous landmarks and attractions that are definitely worth exploring. 

Copper Canyon

Affectionately known as the Grand Canyon’s southern cousin, the Copper Canyon is one of Mexico’s most popular natural attractions and is in fact much larger and deeper than its northern counterpart. Located in Northern Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental, this stunning geological wonder is comprised of six separate canyons, which were carved out by converging rivers that empty in the Gulf of California. One of the best ways to discover the Copper Canyon is by hopping aboard the Chihuahua-Pacifico Railway, which climbs over 2,700 feet and passes through 86 tunnels. Adventurous spirits can explore the canyon floor by horseback or mountain bike, with plenty of chances to interact with indigenous Tarahumara communities.

El Arco

If your travel itinerary includes Cabo San Lucas, you can’t miss a boat ride to the area’s most iconic (and romantic) landmark — El Arco. Meaning “the arch” in Spanish, this beautiful rock formation juts from the sea, marking the union of the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California. The arch has become a famous attraction for several reasons. Besides its distinctive beauty and geological significance, El Arco also happens to lure large groups of playful sea lions and occasional migrating whales. A sunset cruise to El Arco promises incredible photo opportunities, and water taxis offer cheap roundtrip  transportation from the Cabo marina.

Isla Mujeres

Situated just eight miles from the booming beach town of Cancun, Isla Mujeres (Island of the Women) is the place to go for crystal clear waters, white sand beaches and incredible snorkeling and diving among colorful coral reefs. This island paradise is much more than a tourist hotspot and local landmark, however. Isla Mujeres is steeped in history. During Pre-Columbian times, the island was a sacred spot to Ixchel, the Mayan goddess childbirth. Ferries shuttle day trippers over from Cancun to enjoy the island’s postcard-perfect beaches and unparalleled underwater adventures. The island even has a cool turtle farm that is sure to entertain the kids.

Chichen Itza

The sprawling Mayan city of Chichen Itza is an easy day trip from Playa del Carmen or Cancun. Dating back more than 1,500 years, this Maya complex is one of Mexico’s most well-preserved and popular archaeological sites.  A visit to Chichen Itza promises many chances to marvel at the incredible achievements of this ancient civilization, which produced the hulking Pyramid of Kukulkan and the rounded observatory of El Caracol, which was meticulously aligned with the motions of Venus.

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3 Incredible Mayan Ruins You Must Visit

Ruins of Palenque, Maya city in Chiapas, MexicoMexico is nation renowned for its breathtaking beaches, vibrant traditions, world-class sportfishing and palate-pleasing cuisine. But few tourists know that Mexico is home to nearly 200 sites created and inhabited by Mesoamerica’s most advanced civilization – the Maya. Celebrated for their impressive developments in mathematics, hieroglyph writing, astrology and architecture, the Maya civilization dominated southern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula as well as parts of Central America between 250 and 900 AD.

It goes without saying that no Mexico vacation is complete without visiting at least one Mayan ruin. For a chance to explore awesome pyramids, towering fortresses and ceremonial temples – surrounded by dramatic jungle and ocean vistas — add these three ancient Mayan sites to your bucket list!

Palenque – Chiapas, Mexico

The stunning archaeological site of Palenque is situated in Chiapas, Mexico, which was once part of the vast Mayan empire. Though diminutive in size compared to other touristed ruins, Palenque is noted for its exceptional sculptures, beautiful bas-relief carvings and awe-inspiring construction. Palenque overlooks the Usumacinta River flood plain, and is flanked by dense primordial forest. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, Palenque features the area’s largest Mesoamerican step pyramid, the 75-foot Temple of the Inscriptions, and is widely considered one of the Maya’s most significant artistic and architectural feats.

Chichen Itza – Yucatan Peninsula

The Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza lure more than 1.5 million travelers every year for good reason. This sprawling complex was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and is located on the Yucatan Peninsula, about two hours from Cancun.  Mexico’s best-preserved and most-visited Mayan site, Chichen Itza’s tremendous pyramids and temples are sure to impress. The ruins cover nearly two square miles and boast amazing examples of post-classic Mayan architecture, including El Castillo (Temple of Kukulkan), which climbs 98-feet into the sky and features one step for each day of the calendar year. Other noteworthy sites include the Sacred Cenote, the Ball Court and the Temple of the Warriors.

Tulum – Riviera Maya

The Mayan city of Tulum was once a busy trading seaport, thanks to its strategic location next to the Caribbean Sea. With its gorgeous backdrop of jade-green waters, Tulum is undoubtedly one of Mexico’s most scenic ruins, roughly 45 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. The city’s principle structure, El Castillo, is perched on a towering cliff with 360-degree views of aquamarine waters and pristine beaches. Be sure to explore the Temple of the Frescoes – used by the Maya to observe the sun. The area also features numerous cenotes (natural swimming holes) as well as stellar cave diving.

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Tips for Planning a Destination Wedding in Mexico

Beach wedding arrangementDestination weddings are becoming increasingly popular, as more couples discover the intrinsic benefits of celebrating their big day in an exotic, warm-weather locale. According to bridal authority TheKnot, Mexico ranks among the world’s top places for a destination wedding. Given the country’s amazing array of natural attractions, archeological ruins and stunning scenery, it’s no wonder why Mexico is the perfect place for couples who want a beautiful—yet affordable—beach wedding in paradise.

The villas and resorts are world-class, the cuisine is fantastic, English is widely spoken, flights are inexpensive, and destinations like the Riviera Maya, Cancun, Acapulco and Los Cabos offer a gorgeous backdrop for one of the most memorable days of your life.

If you’re planning on tying the knot in Mexico, heed these practical tips for planning a destination wedding that is stress-free and fun for everyone!

Hire a wedding coordinator

Your week of wedded bliss begins with hiring an expert planner – someone who knows the best caterers, photographers, venues and florists in the area. Planning a wedding from abroad takes a lot of logistics, patience and time! By enlisting the services of an experienced coordinator, you’ll be saved the hassles and stresses that can turn a bride-to-be into a Bridezilla. Insider tip: look for a planner who has organized other weddings in the same destination or venue.

Plan a visit in advance of the wedding

If you have a date in mind, it’s best to visit your intended wedding destination in advance to familiarize yourself with the local ambience, available venues, accommodations and vendors. Think of this trip as a mini-romantic getaway that doubles as scouting session.

Time it right

While most of Mexico’s famous beach towns promise balmy, sunbathing weather year-round, rains can spoil an otherwise splendid sunset ceremony. Avoid weather-related fiascos by planning your wedding between November and April, which are traditionally considered the “dry season” months. Keep in mind that Christmas and Easter (known as Semana Santa) holidays are particularly crowded in tourist hotspots, making travel arrangements more challenging. In a perfect world, you will book your venue at least 10-12 months in advance.

Send wedding invites early

You’re ready to celebrate in style with your closest friends and family, which means you need to give them ample time to clear their calendars, arrange for childcare and book tickets. Standard etiquette dictates that you should send out Save the Dates a good 6-8 months in advance of the ceremony. A formal invite should be sent out at least 3 months before the wedding and include pertinent info on accommodations, reception, event plans, dress code, gift registries and local sightseeing and activities.

Know the legal requirements for paperwork

A local wedding coordinator can prove invaluable for helping couples obtain the necessary paperwork to be legally married in Mexico. Though requirements vary from state to state, most U.S. and Canadian citizens will need valid passports, their tourist permits, certified birth certificates and an affidavit of single status. Foreign documents must be translated, notarized and apostilled. Couples can also choose to have a symbolic ceremony in Mexico after being legally wed in their hometown.

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Cervezas Artesanales: Mexico’s Top Craft Beers

Preparation of Mexican beer drink MicheladaOver the past decade, the Mexican beer scene has exploded, churning out a surprising number of highly drinkable cervezas artesanales – hoppy, full-bodied craft beers that can truly hold their own. If you’re hankering for something headier than Dos Equis, Pacifico, or the ubiquitous Corona, there are some exciting new brews to check out during your next trip south of the border. Some say that the craft beer movement in Mexico is still under the radar, limited to major urban hubs like Mexico City or Guadalajara.

The good news is that brew pubs, bars and restaurants in tourist hotspots are beginning to stock up on some of the better stouts, Imperial Pale Ales (IPAs) and dark lagers that are a refreshing standout from traditional ales.  Here’s a roundup of Mexico’s five tastiest craft beers, as rated by BeerAdvocate.

La Lupulosa – American style IPA

Brewed by Cerveceria Insurgente, this delectable IPA scores well for its light toasty caramel malt and complex candied citrus, pine and earthy aromas. Praised for its deep amber body and “beautiful creamy head,” La Lupulosa (Alcohol 7.3%) has a pleasant hoppy bitterness, with notes of mango, pine and grapefruit.

Minerva – Irish Dry Stout

Minerva earns high scores as a stellar Mexican stout. Produced by Cerveceria Minerva, this medium-bodied brew has flavor notes of dark chocolate, roasted coffee, licorice, charred wood and herbal hops. Minerva has a fairly dry finish, with lingering hints of toasted cocoa and caramelized sugar.

Nocturna – Black American Ale

Some reviewers say that Nocturna drinks more like a hoppy porter than a black IPA, but the general consensus is still positive. With each sip, Nocturna delivers a hoppy flavor with notes of toasted grains.  Described as “crisp, malty, mildly bitter with a nice balance of sweet and pepper,” this hops-forward beer is easy to drink but not overly heavy.

Runaway – American style IPA

Flavors of citrus, pine, caramel, and grass dominate this American-style IPA, crafted by Cucapa Brewing Company. Runaway’s 7.5% alcohol content is hardly noticeable, and it finishes with a lingering malty sweetness reminiscent of honey. This Imperial Pale Ale will exceed your expectations, and is even flying off of U.S. shelves!

Cucapa Green Card Barley Wine

Contrary to its name, barley wine is a type of very strong beer known for its robust body and alcoholic strength (topping out at 12 percent). Cerveceria Cucupa scored another home-run with their Green Card Barleywine (alcohol 10%)– an astringent ale with notes of vanilla toffee, raisins, apple, molasses, figs and pine. Without a doubt, this is a smooth brew to be savored slowly.

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Top 5 Golf Courses in Mexico

Golf aficionados owe it themselves to head south of the border and experience the magic of premier golf in Mexico. A 2016 Golf Digest article waxes poetic on the “numerous” picturesque and highly playable courses, many positioned along gorgeous seaside cliffs. From the Baja Peninsula to Chileno Bay, the Mexican golf scene continues to garner international recognition for superb course designs by PGA champions like Nicklaus, Gary Player and Greg Norman.

Among Mexico’s most famed and luxurious fairways, here are 5 world-class courses that have ranked among the best.

Dunes Course at Diamante

For an all-around 5-star experience, take your clubs to this Davis Love III-designed course in Cabo San Lucas. This private links-style course and resort features stunning desert-meets-ocean views and is the #1 ranked course in Mexico by Golf Digest. Posh touches include Diamonte’s signature course side “comfort stations” that offer up libations and gourmet snacks to parched players.  

Cabo del Sol Ocean Course

The aptly named “Ocean Course” sidles up to the Sea of Cortez, giving the sensation as if you’re teeing-off in the water! Dreamed up by the legendary Jack Nicklaus, this dramatic seaside fairway is open to the public and is renowned for its free fish tacos just before the final trio of holes along the shore’s edge. The Ocean Course offers the best combination of value and picturesque views, according to Golf Digest.

Quivira Golf Club Cabo San Lucas

Higher handicappers will revel in the challenging Nicklaus course at Quivira, where a spectacular backdrop includes towering sand dunes framed by mountains and breathtaking ocean vistas. Opened in 2014, this private 18-hole course, situated at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, promises a variety of surprises for the avid golfer.

Querencia Golf Club

Billed as the first private championship course in Los Cabos, and designed by Tom Fazio, Querencia is carved out of a lush 800+ acre property between Costa Azul and Palmilla. Querencia has been named the number one golf course in Mexico by Golfweek and boasts wide fairways and stunning desert and ocean views from every hole.

El Camaleón Mayakoba 

Site of the PGA Tournament – OHL Classic, the Camaleon golf course at the Mayakoba Resort is widely regarded by professionals as one of the world’s finest courses, thanks in part to the expert design of Greg Norman. Exceptional views, challenging terrain and 5-star service are the hallmarks of this tournament-worthy course, conveniently located in Playa del Carmen — just 40 minutes from the Cancun international airport.

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Best Places for Surfing in Mexico

Surfer in a blue water barrel.Looking for sun-drenched beaches and crystal-clear water? Mexico is a popular travel destination during the winter months, especially among surfers. Some of the best waves are found in Cabo San Lucas and Sayulita, Nayarit, but there are plenty of other choices to please every surfer, from beginner to expert. And if you have difficulty choosing just one destination, consider booking a tour of your favorite hot spots.

Surfing in Cabo San Lucas

If you’re looking for diversity, nothing beats Cabo San Lucas. It’s ideal for groups of surfers of varying skill levels. It offers varying break directions and, when you’re taking a break to relax on the beach, you’ll see some of the most awe-inspiring coastal scenery around. The biggest waves are found in Cabo from June through August, but the beaches are predictably more crowded during these months. If you prefer more elbow room, consider going there during the off-season, particularly if you plan on trying the infamous Zippers break.

You’ll find Zippers just west of Cabo San Lucas. It’s hard to miss, since it plays host to many surfing competitions. This fast right break offers a long ride thanks to the underlying reef structure. If you do go to Cabo during the busy season and you prefer breaks that are off the beaten path, try Shipwrecks. If you go, be sure to rent a sturdy 4WD SUV, since a dainty sedan likely won’t make it there. Keep an eye out for Rancho Rocas del Mar; Shipwrecks isn’t too far south of here.

Surf shops, rentals, lessons, and camps are available throughout the Cabo area.

Sayulita, Nayarit

The Mexican state of Nayarit has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the best coasts in the world for surfers and the beaches of Sayulita are its crown jewels. Here, beginners and longboard riders will find the perfect right breaks, but experts and daredevils will be more than satisfied with the rapid left breaks too. The winter season is best for surfers looking for big swells. It also happens to be the time when humpback whales can be spotted in the bay.

Hip accommodations are available in this rapidly growing surfing community, with cheap board rentals available, lively nightlife, and hard-to-beat casual dining experiences.

Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

If rapidly growing hotspots aren’t quite your taste, consider booking a trip to Puerto Escondido instead. Located in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido is one of the best kept secrets among avid surfers. It’s deep in the southwest of the country. You won’t find touristy crowds here – just steamy beaches, warm water, and waves to die for. Puerto Escondido is a highly affordable destination for surfers looking for a no-frills experience. Serious surfers tend to cluster in the Zicatela part of town.

Playa Zicatela is renowned for its punchy small waves and monster swells, so bring your shortboard and your longboard to take advantage of every condition. If you’re there on the odd day when the waves do fall flat, charter a cheap panga and go sport-fishing for sailfish.

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Escape Winter in Mexico

mexico beachThe holiday season is winding down but there are still months of winter left ahead – presenting the perfect opportunity to escape to Mexico. Whether you just need a break from snowy weather, could use a time away to refresh after holiday preparations, or are just itching for some adventure and exploration, a winter vacation in Mexico offers just what many of us need.

Winter Mexico beach vacations

Unsurprisingly, the winter months in Mexico do lead to cooler temperatures than in the summer but in the southern parts of Mexico, the temperature remains in the upper 70’s and 80’s – plenty warm to enjoy the beach in locales like Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. Without a doubt, the warm weather is a major attraction, drawing visitors to these popular destinations all season long.

When you’re not relaxing on palm-lined beaches, there are ancient Mayan ruins to explore and numerous day trips to local attractions. Ecotours, for example, are especially popular escapes that allow visitors to enjoy wildlife during the more mild season.

Mexico’s seasonal celebrations

Though Christmas has come and gone, celebrations continue throughout Mexico. There are plenty of annual festivals going on right from the start of the year. New Year’s Day, or Ano Nuevo, is a national holiday when regular businesses are closed but most tourist attractions are still up and running. Not long after, Dia de Reyes, or Kings Day, is celebrated on January 6. On Dia de Reyes, Mexican children receive gifts from the three kings (the Magi) and eat Rosca de Reyes, or King’s Cake. This wreath-shaped bread hides a small doll to represent the baby Jesus.

By the end of January, the festivities are just beginning; February 1 marks Constitution Day – Dia de la Constitucion – a national holiday celebrating the 1917 adoption of the country’s constitution following the Mexican Revolution. The next day, February 2, is the religious holiday Dia de la Candelaria, which officially marks the end of the Christmas season in Mexico. Dia de la Candelaria commemorates when Mary brought baby Jesus to the temple 40 days after birth to present him as her firstborn, and Catholics in Mexico celebrate by bringing statues of baby Jesus to church for blessing.

Almost as soon as the Christmas season officially ends, many Mexican cities kick off Carnaval. Each city’s celebration runs on its own schedule that may vary slightly from place to place, but they generally run for five days before Ash Wednesday (which falls on March 1 in 2017).

Soak up local culture

Nothing provides a physical and emotional recharge like a change in scenery. Not only does Mexico feature a beautiful landscape that offers an escape from the snowy tundra of the United States and Canada in winter, but it offers an immersion in traditional culture. Even in the most tourist-oriented destinations, visitors can sample traditional food, buy Mexican folk art, and enjoy the wonderful hospitality of local residents.

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Viva La New Year! Celebrate 2017 in Mexico

Happy New Year 2017Who needs Times Square when there is a world of possibilities in sunny Mexico? This year, ditch the snow and the cold and head south for New Year’s. It’s easy to book a premier vacation rental at a resort town in Mexico. The hardest part of arranging your trip is figuring out which particular destination suits you best. Here’s a quick look at some of the possibilities for ringing in 2017.

New Year’s Eve in Cancun

Cancun is a world-class destination for vacationers looking to soak up some sun, but the nightlife is certainly nothing to sneeze at. You can expect a night to remember. The Mandala Beach Club is known for hosting extravagant pool parties. Celebrate the first few hours of 2017 at the After Party from 2 to 6 am. Packages are available, including a VIP experience.

Before heading over to the Mandala Beach Club, make your first stop of the night at Dady’O Cancun. There is a pre-party at La Vaquita, which includes an open bar. Your ticket includes your cover and a buffet-style dinner. Dady’O Cancun is well-known for its extravagant light shows and exuberant celebrants.

New Year’s Eve in San Carlos

This beautiful subdivision in the port city of Guaymas in Sonora is famed for its crystal-clear, warm waters and world-class golf courses, making it a popular resort town. Come New Year’s Eve, guests and residents can let loose with dancing to live salsa bands, talented live DJs, and champagne toasts galore.

If you’re craving an elegant sit-down dinner, take your significant other to the New Year’s Eve celebration at El Embarcadero at Marinaterra. Enjoy the live music as you feast on the chef’s finest dishes and desserts. Reservations are recommended.

La Salsa is hosting its own unique farewell to 2016 with a live salsa band and DJs. Start your evening with surf and turf, lobster Thermidor, or other delectable offerings. Tickets are limited.

If you’re looking for a less formal affair, head over to Froggy’s New Year’s Eve party. Control A is slated to perform from 10 pm to 2:30 am. Pizza, beer, and margaritas will be served to hungry dancers.

Try the local customs

Wherever you decide to celebrate the incoming year in Mexico, do embrace the local customs to fully enjoy the experience. For Americans, the stroke of midnight often includes a kiss and a champagne toast. In Mexico, it’s customary to consume 12 grapes – one for each chime of the clock. “Las doce uvas de la suerte” brings luck in the New Year.

While walking along the streets, be mindful of windows overhead. It’s also considered good luck to toss out a bucket of water at midnight, which signifies bidding farewell to the old year. And don’t be surprised if you’re invited to walk a circle around an empty suitcase. Another way to invite good travels in the New Year is to walk around the block while carrying an empty suitcase. Visitors can rest assured that fireworks are just as traditional in Mexico as they are in America; midnight fireworks invite good luck and frighten away evil spirits.

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Yucatan Cave Discoveries Offer Insight into First American Inhabitants

More than 6,000 water-filled caves can be found along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Known locally as cenotes, these limestone sinkholes are popular scuba diving sites marked by their stunningly beautiful stalagmites and stalactites. Over the past 35 years, avid spelunkers and divers have been exploring the underwater caverns, primarily located on the Riviera Maya between the Tulum ruins and Cancun.

In 2007, while diving the site known as Hoyo Negro (Spanish for black hole), a group of amateur cave divers made a startling discovery that would completely transform the way scientists view the first inhabitants of America. Alejandro Alvarez and his friends stumbled upon a completely intact 12,000-year-old skeleton of an adolescent girl. This landmark discovery was only announced publicly this year in the U.S. magazine Science, following years of meticulous scientific investigations by Mexican authorities.

12,000 year old skeleton found in Yucatan water cavern

Mexican scientists believe that the preserved skeleton of the teenage girl, nicknamed Naia (which is old Greek for water nymph), may shed light on the origin of the American continent’s first inhabitants. Later studies on the skeleton’s facial features and skull shape helped identify Naia as a paleo-American woman. Her DNA can be traced back to hunter-collectors who traveled to the Americas from northern Asia more than 20,000 years ago.

Scientists think that the 16-year-old girl possibly fell into the hole before the caverns filled with water. Over the many thousands of years, as glaciers melted, the girl’s bones along with those of prehistoric mega fauna were sealed off in a watery grave.

Fortunately for scientists, the skeleton was found practically untouched and in pristine condition, providing almost a time capsule. In the watery tomb, divers also found many bones of creatures that were later identified as puma, sabertooth, giant tapir, boar, coyote, bear and gomphothere – a distant elephant relative.

Great Maya Aquifer discoveries

Within months of finding the Naia skeleton, underwater explorers made two other notable discoveries within the Great Maya Aquifer in the state of Quintana Roo. Archeologist Guillermo de Anda Alanis and his team discovered a perfectly preserved Maya altar, along with remains of prehispanic building structures dating to 900-1200 AD. Divers also found the fossilized cranium of a man more than 10,000 years old.

Researchers speculate that these ancient remains found in the cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula suggest some sort of catastrophic climate event or drought that occurred in the late classic period.

Resources:

  1. LA Times, Teen skeleton found by Mexico cave divers has scientists breathless, http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-mexico-skeleton-divers-20140530-story.html
  2. MexicoNews Network, TEN THOUSAND YEAR OLD SKULL FOUND IN QUINTANA ROO http://www.mexiconewsnetwork.com/art-culture/ancient-skull-found-quintana-roo/
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 Mexican Christmas Traditions to Enjoy

Winter is a wondrous time to visit Mexico. Balmy weather aside, there are many merry reasons to consider a trip to Mexico around the Christmas season, which runs from December 12th to January 6th. Gifts are given on the 6th(the day commemorating the three kings’ visit to baby Jesus in the manger), but the real festivities are in the preceding month of processions, religious ceremonies, and family gatherings.

Posadas

Christmas celebrations kick off on December 16 with a ritual that dates back 400 years. “Posadas” represent a nine-day series of processions recreating the Holy Pilgrimage of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus to Bethlehem.

During the processions, two people dressed as Mary and Joseph lead the way with a candle inside a paper lantern. Certain homes decorated with evergreens and paper lanterns are designated as “the inns.” One home is visited each night for eight nights. At each home, children sing a song, asking to be let in. The residents respond in song, saying there is no room at the inn. On the ninth night, the guests are finally allowed inside for prayer, followed by a party with food and sweet-filled piñatas.

There are many variations on the tradition, depending where you go. San Miguel de Allende is one of the best places in Mexico to partake in posadas, where the community incorporates live donkeys, tremendous bonfires, a Three Kings Market with over 700 vendors, nativity scene building workshops, costumes, classical music concerts, and special treats.

Decorations

Nativity scenes are put up during the Christmas season all across Mexico. Unlike the modest figurines found in people’s homes in America, most of the Mexican scenes are life-sized or encompassing entire rooms of a person’s home. These figurines are often constructed out of clay and passed down through the generations within a family.

Mexican nativity scenes are based around traditional depictions of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, and the Three Kings, but you may see a few unusual additions. Everyday Mexican people – from tortilla-makers to food vendors – are often included in the manger scenes, as well as exotic wild animals like flamingos.

Red poinsettia flowers adorn every Mexican home. Legend has it, a poor girl picked weeds to bring to Church for baby Jesus one Christmas Eve. The people in her neighborhood mocked her, but she believed that any gift given in love would be appreciated by the infant king. When she arrived at church, the “weeds” blossomed into beautiful red flowers – a true Christmas miracle!

Evergreens have become increasingly popular over the years, just as we celebrate with Christmas trees. Hand-painted ornaments make the ideal keepsake to take back home after spending Christmas in Mexico.

Nochebuena traditions

Nochebuena translates to “the Good Night” – which we call “Christmas Eve” in America. On December 24, Mexican families and friends gather for a big feast, often accompanied by music and small gifts.

Dinner may include:

  • Homemade tamales or roast pork with rice and beans as a main entrée
  • Bacalao a la Vizcaina, a salt cod stew
  • A delicious salad made of dark leafy greens, potatoes and mole sauce called romeritos en revoltijo
  • Small donuts, hot chocolate, and circular-shaped rosca de reyes fruit cakes for dessert

Mexicans customarily toast with a punch called coquito made from coconut milk, condensed milk and white rum. Another special drink the Mexicans enjoy at Christmastime is called ponche con piquete – a hot drink made from the pulp of seasonal fruits, spices like cinnamon, and alcohol like rum, brandy, or tequila. Atole is a hot, corn-based beverage flavored with vanilla beans, cinnamon and brown sugar.

The feast is followed by Misa de Gallo (“Mass of Roosters”) — the Midnight Mass, where a baby Jesus figurine is blessed and placed in the nativity scene. The religious service received its name from a legendary rooster who witnessed the birth of Jesus and made his announcement to the world.

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