Christmas Traditions in Spanish Speaking Countries

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Christmas Traditions Around the World: Mexico






Holiday Traditions of Mexico "Feliz Navidad"

… learning about how other people and countries celebrate the holidays. Enjoy their traditions, enjoy a recipe or two, and enjoy some music from around the world.




A wonderful Mexican Christmas tradition, las posadas literally translates in English as "the inns" or "the lodgings" and symbolizes the Biblical journey of Mary and Joseph as they searched for shelter in Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus. The nine-day celebration lasts from December 16 to Christmas Eve (Noche Buena or "Holy Night") and includes a candle-lit procession of children and parents reenacting Mary and Joseph's journey through Bethlehem. The holiday ritual includes a lively and colorful pageant of kids (the "pilgrims" or peregrinos ) - costumed as Joseph, Mary, angels, shepherds and the Three Wise Men - who travel from house to house until they reach a designated home where Las Posadas will be celebrated that year. Upon arrival, the hosts or "innkeepers" meet the procession at the door to begin the holiday fiesta with an exchange of lyrics from the traditional Pidiendo Posada:


Outside Singers


In the name of heaven,

I ask you for shelter

because my beloved wife can continue no longer.


Inside Singers


This is no inn,

continue on your way.

I am not about to open.

You may be a scoundrel. The song goes on for several stanzas until Joseph and Mary are finally recognized and allowed inside with everyone singing, feasting, and celebrating.






Posada tradition introduced by Hermano Pedro de Betancurt (1626-1667)



por Julio Herrera


Fue el Hermano Pedro de Betancurt (1626-1667) quien en Guatemala introdujo como parte de las festividades navideñas los nacimientos y posadas para recordar la travesía de María y José en su viaje a Jerusalén y poder cumplir así con el censo romano y el nacimiento del niño Jesús en Belén.




La Posada Navideña en Guatemala

Posted by romerogt on octubre 13th, 2007





Posadas in La Antigua Guatemala





Photos of Christmas Posada in Antigua Guatemala





Photo of Nativity scene in Antigua Guatemala

On December 23rd the quest for lodging or the act of pedir posada ends and marks the beginning of preparations for Christmas or the birth of baby Jesus.


Here you can see a typical anda (float) with the figures of Mary and Joseph as they wondered around town looking for lodging (posada) and the final place where they found it. You can all see the ensemble of the Guatemalan Christmas decorations.


Tomorrow, you will see a Nativity scene with baby Jesus being put in its nacimiento.






Guatemalan Notebook

Las Posadas

For the nine days preceding Christmas, posadas (processions) are commonly seen just after dark ambling down neighborhood streets to turtle shell drum beats, firecrackers, and figurines of Mary and Joseph. Each night we’ve watched them pass from our terrace, a rag tag bunch of kids bearing the Holy Family, as it journeys from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to houses of friends or family. A ritualistic dialogue occurs at each house before Mary and Joseph are invited inside to the nacimiento (nativity) to rest for the night. Here the Holy Family remains until the next night, where they will be taken once again to look for shelter, and come to rest in another home.


Tonight, on Christmas Eve, a figure of the Christ child will be added to the nacimiento for a final resting at the last of the nine houses. Here, all those who have participated these nine nights in the posadas will come together for tamales and ponche and a celebration. At midnight, the whole city will erupt with fireworks.


I am writing this having just finished our own tradition of meatballs and lasagna, and will soon head off to church for the Christmas Eve service, then back with friends for the fireworks. We should have a hell of a view from our terrace if the haze or firework smoke doesn’t cloud it out.


Spending our first Christmas in Guatemala, while not like home exactly, has been good. Still, I’m wishing we were under a heavy snowfall right about now, with mulled apple cider on the stove, and the rooms noisy with family.





Information on St. Betancurt from the Vatican (in Spanish)





Information on St. Betancurt from the Franciscan Order ( in Spanish)










Epiphany goes by various names in different cultures, i.e., Little Christmas, Three Kings Day, or Twelfth Night, which remains the official end of the season's "Twelve Days of Christmas" counting from Christmas evening on December 25 to the Ephiphany on January 6.


However, in many Hispanic cultures today gifts can be given on Christmas Day, as well. They can also be given on Three Kings Day - or as double celebration - on both days! In Mexico in particular, serving Rosca de Reyes, a festive sweet bread in the shape of a king's crown, is also a still-popular tradition on Three Kings Day.

In Spain as well as other Spanish-speaking countries, the tradition had always been to observe Christmas Day as a solemn religious occasion, reserving Three Kings Day or Día de los Reyes for partying and exchanging gifts. It is said that the Three Kings, Balthasar (Spanish = Baltasar), Gaspar and Melchior (Spanish = Melchor) arrived twelve days after the birth of Jesus, bearing their famous gifts of gold, and frankincense and myrrh. As such in Spain, this is the day that people give and receive gifts. And as children in the United States and other countries might wait with great anticipation the arrival of Santa Claus, in Spain the children await the arrival of the Three Kings.


Los Tres Reyes Magos literally means "The Three King Wizards", but is usually interpreted to mean "The Three Wise Men" or "The Three Kings". Their celebration day (January 6th) is referred to as "Three Kings Day" or just "The Day of the Kings".



On January 5th in most Spanish towns is the "la cabalgata" (the calvacade) which is a parade marking the arrival of the Three Kings. The Three Kings ride on floats throwing candy to the children. In the Canary and Balaeric Islands the Three Kings arrive by ship!

After the parade the children return to their homes to prepare for the arrival of the Three Kings. They place their shoes on the windowsills and fill them with straw, carrots and barley for the donkeys of the Three Kings. Sometimes they might also leave some food for the Three Kings. The next morning the children wake up early to open their presents. Although the children like all of the Three Kings, their favorite is Baltasar because he is the one who it is believed actually leaves the gifts. This is also the day that adults will get their presents although of course these are not delivered by the Three Kings.





The decorated clay pot also called a cantero represents Satan who often wears an attractive mask to attract humanity. The most traditional style piñata looks a bit like Sputnik, with seven points, each with streamers. These cones represent the seven deadly sins, pecados - greed, gluttony, sloth, pride, envy, wrath and lust. Beautiful and bright, the piñata tempted. Candies and fruits inside represented the cantaros (temptations)of wealth and earthly pleasures. Thus, the piñata reflected three theological virtues in the catequismo. (religious instruction or catechism)


The blindfolded participant represents the leading force in defying evil, ‘Fe’, faith, which must be blind. People gathered near the player and spun him around to confuse his sense of space. Sometimes the turns numbered thirty three in memory of the life of Christ. The voices of others cry out guidance:


¡Más arriba! More upwards! ¡Abajo! Lower! ¡Enfrente! In front!


Some call out engaños (deceits, or false directions) to disorient the hitter. Secondly the piñata served as a symbol of ‘Esperanza’, Hope. With the piñata hanging above their heads, people watched towards los cielos (sky or heaven) yearning and waiting for the prize. The stick for breaking the piñata symbolized virtue, as only good can overcome evil. It is also thought to represent Satan’s attempt to prevent the Christ Child from being born. Once broken, the candies and fruits represented the just reward for keeping faith, as well as the triumph of good over evil, as the Child was born.


Finally the piñata symbolized ‘Caridad’, Charity. With its eventual breaking, everyone shared in the divine blessings and gifts.


The moral of the piñata: all are justified through faith.


Today, the piñata has lost its religious symbolism and most participate in the game solely for fun. Piñatas are especially popular during Las Posadas, traditional processions ringing in the Christmas season and at birthday parties. During festivities, people traditionally sing songs while breaking the piñatas.


“Dale, dale, dale, no perdas el tino, porque si lo perdes, pierdes el camino. Esta piñata es de muchas mañas, sólo contiene naranjas y cañas.”


Hit, hit, hit. Don’t lose your aim, Because if you lose, you lose the road. This piñata is much manna, only contains oranges and sugar cane.”


Another popular song for hitting the piñata is rooted in the year 1557 when dignitaries of Felipe II toured towns in New Spain. While exacting pledges of allegiance, coins of nickel were offered for coins of silver. This failed to please the people so as they break piñatas during las posadas, they sing:


"No quiero níquel ni quiero plata: yo lo que quiero es romper la piñata."“I don’t want nickel/I don’t want silver I only want to break the piñata…”


Piñatas can be found in all shapes and sizes. Modern ones often represent cartoon or other characters known to most children. Others are shaped like fruits, baskets, rockets etc. Sometimes people of political statue are satirized. At Christmas, star-shaped piñatas suggestive of the Star of Bethlehem are especially popular. One’s imagination is the creative limit.


Traditionally, piñatas are filled with both candies and fruits. Around Christmas in Mexico, wrapped candies, peanuts, guavas, oranges, jicamas(a sweet root vegetable), sugar cane, and tejocotes (a kind of crab apple) stuff piñatas. Some types of piñatas called traps, are stuffed with flour, confetti or ‘flowery water’. Any child without a treat after the goodies are gathered from the ground is given a little basket full of special candy. These colaciónes are kept on hand to avoid hurt feelings and tears. The rest of the treats are passed around to everyone before the party is over.








CHIFF: What the World is Looking for



 MEXICO TRAVELS: Christmas in Mexico (PHOTOS)





Suzanne's Mexico Travel Blog: Christmas in Mexico City







Mexican Christmas recipes for diabetics

Las Posadas ~ Preparing for La Navidad, featuring recipes from: The Diabetes Holiday Cookbook, Year-Round Cooking for people with Diabetes




La Navidad Latina

Christmas Traditions in Mexico (site completely in Spanish)






The first Christmas in old Mexico was celebrated in 1538 by the Spanish missionary Fray Pedro de Gante. He invited all the Indians for twenty leagues around Mexico City to attend. The Indians loved the new feast day and adopted it adding their own touches of flowers and feathers. Many of Mexico’s present day Christmas traditions were originally introduced during the colonial era as a means of teaching Christian morals and the Bible to the Indians.

Scarlet poinsettias, frilly piñatas and gay clusters of balloons, religious banners, images of saints, candlelit processions are all part of the pageantry that is Christmas-time in Mexico. The holiday fiesta lasts for weeks beginning on December 16th when the nine day posada processions start and the custom of erecting a Christmas manger scene called nacimiento are set up in every home and public square. The posadas is a nine night series of processions re-enacting Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem. On Christmas Eve, after the last posada is over, everyone goes to a solemn midnight Mass, and Christmas Day is welcomed in with a jubilant medley of bells, whistles and firecrackers. The devil is not ordinarily associated with Christmas however in Mexico, Lucifer plays a very solid role in the holiday festivities. He is actually the star in a special type of drama called pastorela. These plays, usually performed in the afternoon or early evening during the last weeks of December, are a Mexican version of Europe’s medieval miracle plays. Pastorela means pastoral, or a play that takes place in the countryside, and concerns the activities of pastore, the shepherds.

The festivities continue with the Day of the Innocents on December 28th, New Year’s Eve on December 31st and the Day of the Three Kings on January 6th. One final Christmas celebration on February 2nd called Candlemas winds up the holiday season. 

Every region of Mexico celebrates Christmas in its own distinctive way with traditional dances and plays, bullfights, rodeos, parades and special holiday foods. The Christmas observances of today are a sharp blend of Spanish and Indian cultures, a co-mingling of old customs and new variations with the original Christmas roots that date back more than four hundred years. Christmas in Mexico is called Navidad…the nativity.

Many Mexicans will take a vacation during the Christmas season and school children have an extra long holiday. It is a time of togetherness when families and friends gather to visit and share in the festive celebrations. 
- Old Church Place"
Salado, Texas 76571


Mexican Traditions for Christmas



Christmas in Mexico: Navidad en Mexico, a resource page by Index Page © 2008

Mexico's Christmas Traditions and Customs



Feliz Navidad - Making Merry in Mexico, Mexconnect


Christmas inside Mexico Cultural Articles


Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo



Christmas Traditions Around the World: Mexico



Celebrating Christmas in Mexico - Las Posadas 
…most everybody takes off the last two weeks in December - to party, spend more time with the family, visit with old friends, even make new friends. One of the biggest fiestas of the year



English & Spanish lyrics to Christmas Caroles



MEXICO TRAVELS: Christmas in Mexico (PHOTOS)


Holiday Traditions of Mexico "Feliz Navidad"
… learning about how other people and countries celebrate the holidays. Enjoy their traditions, enjoy a recipe or two, and enjoy some music from around the world.


Suzanne's Mexico Travel Blog: Christmas in Mexico City





Mexican Christmas recipes for diabetics
Las Posadas ~ Preparing for La Navidad, featuring recipes from: The Diabetes Holiday Cookbook, Year-Round Cooking for people with Diabetes

La Navidad Latina
Christmas Traditions in Mexico (site completely in Spanish)





1. En nombre del cielo
Os pido posada,
Pues no puede andar
Mi esposa amada.  
In the name of heaven   We ask thee for lodging Because the dear wife I love 
Can no longer walk.


2. No seas inhumano. 
Ten nos caridad.
Que el dios del cielo
Te lo premiará.
Don’t be so inhumane. Show us some charity. Then the god of heaven Will reward you.



3. Venimos rendidos
Desde Nazareth.
Yo soy carpintero
De nombre José.
We have come worn out  All the way from Nazareth. I am a carpenter
By the name of Joseph.





4. Posada te pide,
Amado casero,
Por sólo una noche
La reina del cielo.
Asking for lodging,
Dear landlord,
For only one night,
Is the queen of heaven.




5. Mi esposa es María.
Es reina del cielo
Y madre va a ser
Del Divino Verbo.
 My wife’s name is Mary. She is the queen of heaven.
And mother soon will be 
of the Word Divine.




6. Dios pague señores
Vuestra caridad
Y así os colme el cielo
De felicidad.
God will reward all of you
For your charity.
Then the heavens will overflow 
you with happiness.






1. Aquí no es mesón.
Sigan adelante.
Yo no puedo abrir.
No sea algún tunante. This is not an inn. 
Go on ahead. 
I cannot open the door. 
You might be a crook.


2. Ya se pueden ir
Y no molestar.
Porque si me enfada
Los voy apalear.
You can leave now
And stop bothering
Because if I get angry, 
I will thrash you.


3. No me importa el nombre.
Déjenme dormir.
Pues que ya les digo
Que no hemos de abrir.
 I don’t care what your name is.
Let me go back to bed. 
Didn’t I already tell you, 
I will not open the door.



4. Pues si es una Reina
Quien lo solicita,
¿Cómo es que de noche
Anda tan solita?
Well, if she’s really a queen
that is petitioning?
How is it that this late of night
She travels all alone?



5. ¿Eres tú José?
¿Tu esposa es María?
Entren peregrinos
No los conocía.
Is that you, Joseph? 
Your wife is Mary? 
Enter pilgrims. 
I didn’t recognize you




6. Dichosa la casa
Que abriga este día
A la virgen pura
La hermosa María.
Lucky is the house 
That shelters this day 
The pure virgin, 
Beautiful Mary.



English & Spanish lyrics to Christmas Caroles