Fiestas, fiestas, fiestas!
Newly arrived international residents in Yucatán often tell me they feel amazed and totally confused by the number of holidays that are commemorated here. It seems there is always a celebration being planned. The annual fiestas begin with:
Fin de Año and Año Nuevo – New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day – are celebrated at the country clubs, restaurants, bars and hotels and with street parties all over the city. Besides the regular party activities (food, music and dancing) at midnight, life-sized “dolls”, representing the old year are stuffed with firecrackers and batting, doused with kerosene, and torched at midnight. Talk about ritual cleansing!
El Día de los Reyes – Three Kings Day, January 6th – is more-celebrated in some parts of México than Christmas Day. However, in Yucatan, gift giving is done at Christmas and on January 6th, the tradition is to share the rosca de reyes – a sweet bread that has little dolls hidden inside. It is usually accompanied by a hot chocolate drink. If your piece has a doll, you are supposed to host a party on the day of la Candelaria, February 2nd. January 6th is also the anniversary of the foundation of Mérida and there is always a large celebration in the Main Plaza.
Carnaval comes shortly afterward. This five-day festival preceding Lent, features parades, costumes, and much beer drinking – in many places in Canada and the U.S.A., it is called Mardi Gras. Traditionally, no parties or festivities should take place during the forty days of Lent
After the dry spell of Lent comes the most popular two-week vacation period of the year: Semana Santa – Holy Week, the week before Easter – and Semana de Gloria or Semana Pascua – Easter Week, the week after Easter. All the schools are closed, so this is when many Mexican families travel and see the country. The resorts are full and many multi-generational groups also take advantage of this long stretch to visit their relatives who live far away.
El Día del Niño – Children’s Day, April 30th – is a very festive day, especially for elementary school-aged children; the teachers always go all-out with sweets and small gifts for their young pupils.
El Día de las Madres – Mothers’ Day, May 10th – honors all women—future mothers, our own mothers, grandmothers, friends’ mothers…it is extremely important to mark this occasion with the appropriate visiting and gifting. Although not a federal holiday, many businesses are closed this day, at least for the afternoon when mothers get taken to lunch or dinner. It is probably the most important of all the traditional but not official holidays in México.
El Día del Maestro – Teachers Day, May 15th – often extends into a week of celebration for the educational sector.
In mid-September, shortly after school has begun, it is time to celebrate el Día de la Independencia – Independence Day. In every town and city throughout the country, the historic el Grito – call for freedom – is re-enacted at 11 pm in the main squares. On the 16th, all businesses, offices and schools are closed. This year the country celebrated its Bicentennial so there was even more elaborate partying. The State government sponsored a huge concert next to the Monumento a la Bandera where the popular entertainer Juan Gabriel sang for more than two hours.
Halloween – October 31st – is an imported festivity but it has grown in popularity to the point where it has become almost as celebrated as the traditional feast days honoring departed loved ones just following, but not with the same devotion and affection.
Todos Santos – All Saints & All Souls Days – which follow on November 1st and 2nd are very important occasions for the families to remember their ancestors and enjoy special meals and outings. (In a couple of weeks, I will write a detailed posting about this festivity)
The 12th of December is when the entire nation pays its respects to la Patrona de México – the patron saint of the country, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe – Our Lady of Guadalupe. La Señora is not just a religious icon; she is the personification of the country’s identity. She is “The Heart of México”.
Noche Buena y Navidad – Christmas Eve & Christmas Day – are extremely popular holidays in México; this is when the entire extended family gets together, as they do in many parts of the world. There are gifts, midnight dinners and parties that last until the sun comes up.
Additionally, there is a whole array of special days: Day of the Secretary, Day of the Doctors, Mailman’s Day, Day of the Students, Day of the Family etc., etc., etc. Every imaginable group of individuals has its recognized day and it is celebrated with a party amongst themselves and their families.
And of course, there are all the assorted celebrations such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, First Holy Communions, baptisms, graduations, dinner parties and….
Besides birthdays, a lot of people also commemorate their Saint’s Day. There is a particular day of the year when each saint in the Christian calendar is recognized. A person’s día de santo is the feast day of the saint who they are named after. All the Lucías in México are honored on the Día de Santa Lucía, December 13th. All the Jorges celebrate the Día de San Jorge on April 23rd, etc., etc.
There are many days of special note, national and traditional holidays – for example el Aniversario de la Constitución – Constitution Day – el Natilicio de Benito Juárez – Benito Juárez’ birthday – and el Día del Trabajo – Labor Day. There may be a holiday on these days, if not in the workplace, possibly in the schools.
You may well ask, “What day of the year is not a specially remembered day?”