Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations

Mexican Holidays and Their Importance

Story by Jim Foreman

As one travels internationally, one of the first things to become apparent is that holidays are different from country to country.

Mexico is no exception. Many holidays are the same across North America such as New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Christmas. Other celebrations can catch a visitor by surprise with unexpected crowds, higher lodging costs, and festive celebrations well into the early morning.

Mexicans love to party and hardly need an excuse to bring family and friends together. Keep these days in mind when traveling in Mexico.

Carnaval in Mazatlan

Carnival (Week leading up to Ash Wednesday)

Most North Americans associate Carnaval or Mardi Gras as a drunk-fest with women cheerfully exposing themselves for a bead necklace in the New Orleans French Quarter.

The week of Carnaval changes from year to year as it is dependent on Ash Wednesday, the day of atonement.

Carnaval is celebrated through most of the Catholic-influenced world in one fashion or another. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is known for having the largest celebration followed by New Orleans, better known as Mardi Gras. Not surprisingly, Mazatlan has the third-largest Carnaval celebration worldwide. Mazatlan features parades down the Malecon, Fireworks, dance parties, Carnaval Queen and El Rey Feo (Ugly King) coronations, and other vibrant festivities.

The celebration of Carnaval happens all throughout Mexico with grand celebrations going on in Ensenada, Vera Cruz, Cozumel and elsewhere. For the rest of the world, Carnaval, as it's mostly called, is a great party celebrated before the Catholic period of Lent. A majority of the festivities happen Friday through Sunday. It ends abruptly during the final minutes on Tuesday just before Ash Wednesday.

Semana Santa/Pasqua (Palm Sunday to Easter and one week after Easter)

Perhaps one of the most important holidays to most Mexicans is Semana Santa.

While Norte Americanos are busy planning which Mexican beach resort to settle in for Spring Break, Mexicans are making travel plans to be with family.

Semana Santa is the common name for two back-to-back holiday weeks beginning on Palm Sunday. Semana Santa lasts through Easter Saturday. Immediately after, Pascua Begins. Pascua is far more joyous as it is a celebration of the Resurrection.

A large number Mexican-Americans travel to Mexico to be with family during this time. For visitors to Mexico, most cities are crowded, and available hotels are quite difficult to find.

Many savvy overland travelers know to avoid making reservations ahead of time in Mexico except during Semana Santa.

Semana Santa is Mexico's busiest travel week, much like Thanksgiving in the United States. Do plan accordingly.

Septiembre 16 Dia de la Independencia (September 16th)

Ask most Americans what day is Mexican Independence Day, and they’ll tell you, Cinco de Mayo (May 5th). This answer couldn’t be more wrong. September 16th is Mexican Independence Day. It commemorates the day in 1810, Miguel Hidalgo, a parish priest, rang the church bells in the town of Delores to call his parishioners to fight for independence.

Presently, the day features parades, fairs, dancing, and fireworks. Think of it the way Americans celebrate July 4th. Many Mexicans use the holiday to gather family and friends together to feast and celebrate. A week prior, streets filled with vendors selling Mexican flags, and other patriotic noisemakers and flashy attire appear everywhere. Traditional dresses and outfits are worn by children.

Dia de Todos los Santos/ Dia del la Muerte (November 1st-2nd)

In Mexico, November 1-2 are both celebrated as Dia de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead.

Originating in Spain, Dia de Los Muertos is not a day of sadness or mourning. Dia de Los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed while living. During the celebration, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their rest to participate in the celebrations with their family.

Men and women will often elaborately paint their faces, either entirely or half-way during the festival.

The most familiar symbol of Dia de Los Muertos is the calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls), which are seen everywhere during the celebration and nearly always portrayed as enjoying life.

Sugar skulls, candy, parade masks, and dolls are all part of celebrating and remembering the dead.

More and more, Dia de Los Muertos is being celebrated in the US just as the Halloween is beginning to take hold in Latin America. While their origins are the same, they are very different holidays.

A fantastic animated film based on the celebration of Dia de Los Muertos is ‘Book of Life.’

Dia de La Raza - October 12th

Coinciding with Columbus Day, Dia De La Raza celebrates the heritage, colonization, and cultural diversity of Latin America. It’s not a major holiday, but it’s not a minor one either. Family get-togethers are common on this day. The day typically features a parade, dances, and feasting.

Bank Holidays:

Expect government offices and banks to be closed on these days.

New Years Day (January 1st)

Dia de la Constitucion (First Monday in February)

Benito Juarez’s Birthday (March 21st)

Maundy Thursday (Thursday before Easter Sunday)

Good Friday (Friday before Easter Sunday)

Dia del Trabajo - Labor Day (May 1st)

Dia de la Independencia (September 16th)

Aniversario de la Revolución Mexicana (Third Monday of November)

Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe (December 12th)

Christmas (December 25th)

Other Minor Holidays:

Dia de la Bandera - Flag Day (February 24th)

Dia International de la Mujer - International Women's Day (March 8th)

Dia del Niño - Day of the Children (April 30th)

Dia del Madre – Mother’s Day (May 10th)

Dia del Padre – Father’s Day (3rd Sunday in June)

Dia de la Raza (October 12th)

Dia de Los Muertos (November 2)

Day of the Innocents (December 28th)
Whether visiting Mexico for one of these holidays or making your own holiday, driving to your destination can be a huge part of the fun.  Before you leave, go to Mexican Insurance Store to Shop, Buy and Print your top rated auto insurance good throughout Mexico.  Insurance is mandatory and not having it can instantly turn a great holiday into a nightmare.  Be smart and get quality insurance at a great price.

©2016 Jim Foreman All Rights Reserved.

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