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.
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
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.
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.