Food Culture and Tradition

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Special Occasions in Mexico


The predominant religion in Mexico is Roman Catholic. But together with Christmas and Easter, many other typical Mexican festivals are observed and many of these are peculiar only to a province or town. Festivals are generally characterized with local costumes, street dancing, and vendors busily selling sweet cakes and confections for the occasion. Among those occasions celebrated nationally are:

January 1: New Year’s Eve and New Years Day, celebrated with parties, restaurant dinners and festive meals.

January 6: Fiesta de los Santos Reyes (the Corning of the Kings). Costumed wisemen roam the streets and give candies and treats to the children; in homes there is gift giving. Traditional rosca de reyes, a ring-shaped bread decorated with candied fruits, is eaten. Somewhere in the bread is hidden a tiny figurine, and the finder is obliged to make a party for all on February 2.

Shrove Tuesday and Easter Week: Most businesses and schools take this week (and Christmas week) as annual holidays. This time is characterized by visits to relatives, church services, and pilgrimages to shrines. In each locale specialty cookies, cakes, and confections are sold by vendors.

March 21: festival celebrating the birth of Benito Juarez, Mexico’s liberal president (1861-1872 and reinstated in 1910) and a Zapotec Indian. Despite the colonization attempt of Napoleon and the brief rule of Austria’s Maximilian and his wife, Carlotta, Juarez’s government returned Mexico to the Mexicans, reformed the education system, built a railway; and set the country towards prosperity

November 1 and 2: All Saints’ and All Souls’ days. Families visit the graves and leave offerings of zempazulchitl, bright fragrant flowers similar to marigolds, as well as specially baked bread called pan de muerto. These round breads, decorated with crossbones and teardrops and sprinkled with pink sugar, are baked and eaten by all social classes days before the solemn occasion.

November 20: Anniversary of the 1910 Revolution, restoring Juarez to power.

December 16-25: The happy time of the posadas, colorful parties with candy-filled pinatas, games for all, and a table laden with buffet dishes – the best the family can offer. Ensalada de noche buena is the Christmas Eve specialty: a huge salad of chopped fruits, crunchy peanuts, and red beets all lightly sprinkled with sugar and vinegar.

Every festival, small or large, brings out regional and local specialties, alcoholic and fruit beverages, bright costumes and communal dancing. Small rich sweets, some specially wrapped in papers, candied fruits and hot spiced snacks provide the refreshment and energy for the celebrants.

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