Ask any American which holiday is most closely associated with eating, and most of us will say, “Thanksgiving!” without a second thought. But because Thanksgiving is a decidedly American (and Canadian) celebration, it’s not really a “thing” in Mexico.
Want a glimpse of what—and how—our neighbors to the south celebrate this time of year? Then enjoy this quick and easy guide to Mexican Feasting Traditions!
For most folks in Latin America, the fourth Thursday in November is usually just another day on the calendar. However, there are plenty of fall and winter holidays that provide folks with a reason to have fun:
»»Diez y Seis de Septiembre, or Mexican Independence Day, on September 16th.
Just as Americans celebrate the day that the United States declared independence from Great Britain, Mexicans celebrate the day that Mexico declared independence from Spain. In Mexico, September 16th is usually a day of music, food, and merry-making.
»»Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, from October 31st to November 2nd.
Contrary to popular belief, Dia de los Muertos is not “Mexican Halloween!” Instead, the holiday is all about remembering one’s dearly departed loved ones. It’s a celebration of life (and an acceptance of the inevitability of death), not a time for just embracing all things spooky and macabre. For more general information about Dia de los Muertos, please see this blog post here, and for a closer look at traditional Day of the Dead foods, you can read this post here.
»»Dia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, or Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, on December 12th.
This holiday got its start way back in 1531 when a vision of a dark-haired, brown-skinned Virgin Mary reportedly appeared to a man named Juan Diego and told him to build a church on Tepeyac Hill in modern-day Mexico City. This incident really kick-started the spread of Catholicism in Mexico; millions of people reportedly converted as a result of this miraculous event. In modern times, the Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is considered a Catholic feast day, and people celebrate with live music, festivals, and parades.
»»Christmas Season, from December 16th to February 2nd
Around this time last year, we discussed the fact that Christmas season in Mexico runs from mid-December to the beginning of February. This is very different from how we do things in America, where you start to see Christmas decorations in early November and everything usually gets put away around New Year’s! Check out the linked post for a more detailed (but by no means exhaustive) overview of the Christmas season in Mexico.
»»Año Nuevo, or New Year, from December 31st through January 1st.
Again, we covered this one in our previous post about winter holidays in Mexico. To reiterate, though: just like in America, New Year’s Eve is all about dancing, drinking, and having fun, while New Year’s Day is all about resting (and, quite often, nursing your hangover).
The bottom line? People in Mexico may not observe Thanksgiving like Americans do, but they’re not exactly hurting for holidays, either!
…and Celebration Delicacies.
Of course, a holiday isn’t really a holiday without traditional foods. Here are some holiday entrées that are popular in Mexico; some will be familiar to Tex-Mex connoisseurs, while others are a little more obscure in our neck of the woods.
»»Tamales and Mole.
Go to any kind of celebration—be it a holiday, a wedding, a baptism, or even a birthday—in Mexico, and you’ll likely see these two foods on the menu somewhere! As we explained in a recent post, preparing tamales and mole in the traditional way tends to be time-consuming and labor-intensive, which is how they gained a reputation as “special occasion” entrées. Now, don’t despair if you’re craving tamales but you don’t have an important event coming up; in America, you can usually get ‘em all the time at high-quality Tex-Mex restaurants!
Fried dough is a popular dessert all over the world, and one such variation that’s often associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe Day and the Christmas Season is buñuelos. To make these tasty little morsels, flour-based dough is lightly flavored with anise, deep-fried, and then drenched in a piloncillo-based syrup. Cinnamon sugar and/or powdered sugar is sometimes added, too. Buñuelos are actually quite similar to sopapillas, but buñuelos tend to be flaky and crispy whereas sopapillas are soft and fluffy.
Okay, fine, this one technically isn’t a traditional “holiday” food. But we’re including it anyway because this particular entrée is very easy to serve buffet-style, making it a popular choice for parties—especially catered parties. Plus, fajitas are extremely customizable, which means that they’re practically a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!
What’s your attitude toward Fall and Winter holidays? Do you like quiet, intimate get-togethers on special occasions, or does your home immediately become party central once the weather turns cold? And are you a big fan of traditions (both cultural and familial), or do you like to branch out and try something new whenever possible? If you’ve never stepped outside your comfort zone for Thanksgiving (or any other holiday), it might be fun to look into how other countries (and cultures) celebrate happy events—you may be surprised at how fun and meaningful other people’s customs can be!
We’re not saying that you that you should ban cranberry sauce, stuffing, and all that jazz from your table. However, if you’re a fan of Tex-Mex food and genuinely prefer tamales over turkey…why not shake things up at your next big family dinner?