Colours, traditions, aromas and poinsettias fill the streets and homes of Mexico from around mid-December until Christmas. Contrary to other countries, Christmas in Mexico is celebrated for more than just a few days, starting on the 16th of December with the remembrance of the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph searching for shelter in Bethlehem, and ending on the 6 th of January with Epiphany Day and the deliciously indulgent rosca de reyes or kings’ cake. (there’s an upcoming post on that subject)
Aside from the tree, lights and piñatas, elaborate nativity scenes are an essential part of the Christmas decorations in Mexico. With little Baby Jesus missing until the night of the 24th when families get together to enjoy Christmas Eve dinner. At midnight the church bells ring and a figurine of Baby Jesus is placed in the manger, after being rocked to sleep and lovingly sung lullabies by all the members of the
Along with the many traditions observed, the abundance of food and drink is a fundamental part of the festivities (both for Christmas and New Year’s eve). As seasonal foods become available, holidays are
marked with exquisite flavors and smells, and as diverse as Mexico is, it’s only logical that the food is a mix of ingredients from both Europe and Pre-Hispanic culture.
Eating leftovers is must, though it is known as recalentado or “re-heating” and is only an excuse to put all remaining food from the night before inside a bread roll in order to make tortas, the Mexican version of a sandwich. And so on the 25th of December and 1st of January you will most likely find us wearing our pijamas and indulging in our many tortas.
Romeritos or Revoltijo.
Romeritos, a plant that grows in the wild, is known as seepweed in English. The name would roughly translate as “little rosemary” due to its visual resemblance to the herb, although there are no similarities in neither flavor nor taste. Romeritos are doused in mole sauce and prepared with potatoes and dried shrimp patties. This is by far my least favourite dish, I might even hate it and only try it to reaffirm my opinion every year.
As in many other Mexican typical dishes, European influence shines through this dish. Salted fish is first soaked in water to get rid of excess salt. The fish then is cooked with olive oil, tomato sauce, olives, capers, potatoes and almonds and served with a yellow, pickled, non-spicy pepper called chile güero (blond chili).
Nochebuena Salad (Christmas eve salad)
Christmas Eve is referred to as Nochebuena in Mexico and gives this salad its name.
One of the healthiest options for dinner, the dish is made with ingredients such as cooked beetroot, peanuts, peeled orange slices and jicama. This red tinted salad brings a delicious freshness to the table and it was my grandma’s favourite xmas dish.
Fruit Punch (Ponche)
Mexico’s most beloved Christmas drink (or at least mine) is Ponche Navideño is an aromatic brew that fills the kitchen with delicious aromas as it’s made. Ingredients vary but it’s most commonly made by boiling hibiscus flowers along seasonal fruits like guava, apples, tejocote (Mexican Hawthorn), prunes, spices like cinnamon and tamarind, and sweetened with piloncillo (raw sugar).
This warm beverage is served with a stick of peeled sugar cane and it is sometimes spiked with spirits such as Tequila, Rum or Mezcal.
This post is inspired in a text I wrote for the blog Que Pasa! you can read it here.
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