Mexico’s Holidays: Dia de los Reyes Magos and Dia de la Candelaria

In the United States and Canada, Christmas festivities are generally wrapped up by New Year’s Day. In Mexico, however, the festivities are far from over. Mexicans celebrate Dia de los Reyes Magos (known as Epiphany in the English-speaking world) on January 6th. This marks the day that the Three Wise Men visited and brought gifts for baby Jesus. It is tradition for families to get together on this day, exchange gifts and, of course, feast with delicious meals.

The Arrival of the Reyes Magos

Three Wise Men

One of the most important elements of the Dia de los Reyes Magos is the rosca de reyes, or the wreath of the kings. This is a large, oval-shaped cake featuring sweetened dried fruit, which represents the jewels on a crown. A small white figurine representing baby Jesus is hidden inside the cake. This mimics the hiding of Jesus from King Herod. Slices are served from the cake to every attendee. Whoever gets the cake with the figurine then has to host a tamale dinner on Dia de la Candelaria on February 2nd.

However, for children, the exciting bit takes place on the 6th in the morning. On the night of the 5th, the Three Wise Men travel by elephant, camel and horse to visit the house of every well-behaved child. They leave gifts behind as a representation of the gifts brought to baby Jesus. The following morning, children will awake early and open their presents. Many children in Mexico today get presents both from Santa Claus and the Three Wise Men.

Dia de la Candelaria: Feburary 2nd


While the United States and Canada celebrate Groundhog Day, Mexico is looking another way. Dia de la Candelaria is known as Candlemas in English. The tradition of Groundhog Day is echoed as well in an old English saying:

If Candlemas be fair and bright, 

Winter has another flight. 

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, 

Winter will not come again.

In Mexico however, the celebration on this day is quite different. Throughout the country on this day people dress up figurines of the Christ Child in special holiday outfits and take them to the church to be blessed by the priest, and are then carried around by their owners as part of the celebrations. Another part of the tradition is to bring candles to mass, so you might notice some beautiful examples being sold around this time in some of the shops.

A dinner gathering featuring tamales is then hosted by the person who found the figurine in the Rosca De Reyes during Dia De Los Reyes Magos. Tamales are dumplings made of masa (corn dough) stuffed with either savory or sweet fillings, and then wrapped in a corn husk and steamed – this is a staple dish for many families who often have their own secret recipes. Often this is also the day when many people take down their Christmas decorations so the added help of party attendees is very welcomed!

Become a part of Mexican culture

Retirement in Mexico

After Dia de la Candelaria things get back to normal – until the next round of festivities! If you are in Mexico during February, be sure to take part in celebrations during this time. It is a great way to experience authentic Mexican culture, as these are celebrations that are deeply important to devout Mexicans across the country. It’s a beautiful view into the culture and lifestyle of the Mexican people, and a great way to get to know your Mexican friends and family.

The best way to get involved in the culture, of course, is by living it. So, if you’re considering retirement abroad, don’t overlook Mexico. We have thousands of properties suited for all styles, needs and budgets.  Make sure to contact our Top Mexico Real Estate Buyer’s Representatives and start looking for your dream home in Mexico!

Buying Safely in Mexico e-book

How are the Christmas Holidays Celebrated in Mexico’s Riviera Maya?

Perhaps the sunny white beaches and azure waters of the Riviera Maya aren’t typically the scene you think of when Christmas comes to mind. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some incredible holiday activities for you to participate in this holiday season. Mexico takes Christmas and the holidays quite seriously. The holidays are filled with tradition, love and happiness.

Longer Celebrations

Three Kings

In Mexico, the holidays begin on December 12th with the celebrations of the Virgin of Guadalupe and officially ends on January 6th – the day of the Three Kings. Many extend the date to February 2nd or the Candlemas Day. On this day, they share atole (a traditional warm cornmeal drink) and tamales with friends and family. For those who love a traditional western holiday atmosphere with snowmen and reindeer, there will be no shortage in Playa del Carmen. Authorities line the Palacio Municipal with poinsettia plants, as well as Christmas-themed decorations each year.

Joel Roberts Poinsett was the first Ambassador to Mexico from the USA. Poinsettias are named after him. These beautiful bright-red flowers are native to Central America and specifically an area of southern Mexico called Taxco de Alarcon. Poinsett loved the way the flowers looked and brought them back to America. Now they are Mexico’s official holiday flower. In Spanish, they are known as Noche Buena, which means holy night.

The city center plaza at the Palacio Municipal is also the location of many holiday-themed events during the season. In addition to the poinsettias, there are also other themed displays often with giant Christmas’s trees and mangers. Here, you can also find delicious Mexican street food like marquesitas (thin rolled crispy wafer-like crepes filled with your choice of fillings, including Nutella, cajeta and sprinkled cheese.

Traditional Mexican Christmas

Christmas Piñata

For more traditional Mexican celebrations, you must look into the posadas. Posada in Spanish means inn, or place to stay. These parties come from the story of Jesus being born and his family asking for space at the inn. Mexicans celebrate this with traditional foods like ponche (a drink made from dried ruins and spices), rosca (a Mexican version of fruitcake) and other local delights. Posadas take place from December 16th all the way up to Christmas. Many people throw posadas at their houses. These involve a sing-off where half the party are the inn-keepers and the other half are the Virgin Mary and her family asking to be let in. When the doors open, the celebrations start. You are expected to crack open the famous piñatas during a posada. Each spike representing a capital sin.

From Mass to Dinners

There are also many activities going on throughout the city. Santa Claus often makes a special visit in the days leading up to Christmas at the Playacar Center. If you’re interested in going to a Christmas Eve church service, there are also masses happening at the various churches around the city – including the chapel on the south end of 5th Avenue. You can attend this mass at 6pm, 7pm and 8pm.

Christmas Gifts

Just like in the USA, gifts are a big part of the Christmas celebration in Mexico. Families usually exchange this over dinner on Christmas Eve. Then, children open their Santa Claus presents on Christmas Day. The last gift exchange happens on the morning of January 6th, when children wake up to open the presents brought to them by the Three Kings. On Christmas Day, you will be able to stroll down 5th Avenue and enjoy the calmness of the morning when people are still at home having dinner leftovers.

Give Playa del Carmen a Try

So, if you’re planning on spending the holidays in Playa del Carmen, you’re sure to be able to enjoy the many traditions of the Mexican people. And don’t forget to bring an open mind and big heart. Although Mexicans tend to be friendly year-round, they are specially jolly during this season.

Mexican Christmas Dinner, Much More Than Turkey, Stuffing and Gravy!

Mexican Christmas dinner might be an exciting experience for newcomers to this country, or a celebration full of memories for those seasoned retirees enjoying the holidays south of the border.

Retiring to Mexico goes beyond learning  a new language, or sorting out immigration and health insurance. Living in Mexico also pushes retirees to adapt old traditions and add new ones; mixing ingredients, languages, people and creating memories in your new home.

There are almost a million foreigners living in Mexico, there is a bigger offer of North-American products in the Mexican supermarkets. However, if you are planning to have a traditional Christmas dinner there might be a limited variety in items like: stuffing, cranberry sauce and others.

Some retirees stick to the traditional Christmas dinner and stock on basic ingredients when they travel home. Others ask friends and family to bring the ingredients from their places of origin and a third group improvises or adapts to the regional flavor and ingredients.

If you are wondering what would be a Traditional Mexican Christmas dinner, well it depends. Every region has its specialties and flavors so a christmas dinner can be a turkey, roasted pork leg, tamales, or even grilled meat.

So, if you are feeling adventurous this christmas, here are some suggestions to try a Mexican Christmas dinner:

A traditional Mexican Turkey dinner:

In Mexico a  traditional turkey dinner;  consists of a baked turkey stuffed with ground meat, spices and fruit. This is served with some pasta or potatoes as well as other traditional side dishes such as romeritos or Bacalao a la Vizcaina (Basque style cod).

A delicious suckling pig Roast (Lechon al horno)

This is my favorite Yucatecan dish, and if you are lucky enough to live in the Yucatan Peninsula you must try it! This is a traditional recipe but it is not spicy, and the flavors mix perfectly and leave a really juicy meat; it is also ideal to have the next day as Tacos or tortas.


(10-12 servings)

  • 1 piglet (12 – 16 pounds)
  • 6 sour oranges (the juice)
  • 6 crushed garlic cloves
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • Pepper
  • Ground cumin
  • Salt
  • Red Achiote paste (Annatto paste)
  • Baking soda

24 hours before roasting:

  1. Mix the ingredients to form a marinade and let the piglet soak in this juice for 8-24 hours
  2. Make deep cuts on the meat so the marinade can really soak in the meat  (if possible, do not pierce the skin)
  3. Rub the meat and skin with the marinade

Before roasting the pig in the oven:

  1. Dry the skin thoroughly with a paper towel
  2. Rub all the skin with cooking oil or lard

To roast the suckling pig:

  1. Place the piglet with the skin side up in a baking dish with the marinade as the cooking surface. Do not overturn the piglet until the end.
  2. Preheat the oven to high (200ºC) Introduce the piglet and cook for 1/2 hour
  3. Reduce the heat to 180º C, and  cook for 4 to 5 hours, depending on the size of the piglet.
  4. After cooking, remove from the oven and sprinkle the skin with baking soda, and use a clean cooking brush to spread the powder
  5. Return to the oven using the grill to brown, and let the skin get a golden color

Note: Follow this process and make sure the skin does not touch the cooking juice, in order to get a crunchy skin.

To Serve:

Cut into uniform pieces and bring to the table.

We hope you have a great time making these recipes, and enjoy your Mexican Christmas. We would love to hear what dishes are your favorite, and if you try our recipes please let us know how it turns out!