Traditional Mexican Events in Cancun
Any excuse for a party!
Mexico possesses a unique history and coupled with deep catholic values and strong family ties this gives rise to some great Mexican fiestas. Mexicans are never ones to be shy at holding a party or drinking to celebrate something. Below are just a few of the most popular celebrations that are locally celebrated in Cancun.
Mexican Independence Day in Cancun
This is probably the biggest single event in the country and commemorates the beginning of Mexico’s war of independence with Spain. In 1810 a group of Mexican nationals hatched a plan to overthrow the brutal regime of the Spanish that had occupied their country for the last 300 years.
The plan was that the Mexicans would rise up against the Spanish in a War of Independence that would begin on 2 October. However, their plans were uncovered by the Spanish early in September and a decision had to be made quickly, either abandon their plans or start the revolt early.
Father Hidalgo rang the bell in his small church on the night of 15 September to call the faithful to church, there they listened to his speech which is now known as ‘El Grito de Delores’, shouting “Viva Mexico” and “Viva la Independencia!” These famous words have been remembered and are said each year at the Independence Day celebrations.
Armed with inferior weapons such as clubs, knives, stone slings, and ancient guns, they fought as they marched to Mexico City. Before the year was over Father Hidalgo was captured and executed but some 10 years later the people of Mexico finally won their Independence. Viva Mexico!
In Cancun, as in every town and city in Mexico the celebration takes place at the main Government office. In Cancun this is on Ave. Tulum, downtown.
Tens of thousands of locals wait to her the bell rung and to hear ‘El Grito’ re-enacted by the senior government official. Thereafter their follows a fantastic firework display and much partying, dancing, mariachi music, folk dancing and, of course, drinking.
If you do decide to venture to the Government Building on Independence Day there are a few things you should be aware of:
The surrounding streets will be closed off several hours before, you may have to walk a fair distance to reach the celebrations. El Grito takes place at 11pm, but crowds start to build as early as 7pm
The area will be very crowded, it is not a place for young children. Given the number of people in a confined space you should be wary of pickpockets. Public transport and taxis will be at a premium after the ceremony, you may have to wait a while before you can get back to your hotel.
If you choose to stay in the Hotel Zone area though, don’t worry. El Grito from Mexico City is relayed to all the video screens in the hotels and nightclubs in the Hotel Zone and even if you are having a quiet night in at your hotel bar you will not be able to miss this one.
Childrens Day - Apr 30
El Día de los Niños or Childrens Day is widely observed in Mexico and Cancun. As if they don’t get enough it’s one more opportunity for parents to buy presents for their kids. Usually there will be some form of celebration at school and local businesses often get in on the act such as offering free kids meals. In some places there are parades where the kids dress up and march through the streets.
Cinco de Mayo - May 5th
Well, sorry to disappoint but Cinco de Mayo is just like any other regular day here in Cancun. However, I thought I’d include an entry about it though as many people expect parties and fiestas in Cancun when that’s not the case.
In fact, Cinco de Mayo is far more widely celebrated in the US than it is in Mexico.
It does, of course, have Mexican origins though. Cinco de Mayo celebrates the victory of the Mexicans over the French army at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862. In Mexico though it is only truly commemorated in the state of Puebla where the victory took place.
Day of the Dead - Nov 1st/2nd
The 1st November is to remember young people who died and the 2nd is to remember the older generation. The commemoration ates back to the Indian culture where the dead are allowed to inhabit the earth once again to enjoy the things they once did. Far from being a scary and macabre event it’s a day of celebration. Cancun does not go overboard on this one, Oaxaca is famous for its large celebrations though.
In Cancun it’s quite a personal thing and tends to consist of families visiting and tidying the graves of family members (you will find if you visit a cemetery that the graves will be decorated with flowers, food and toys for the little ones) and having a special dinner with candles etc. and, of course, a few drinks to commemorate a lost loved one. The food often consists of meat dishes in spicy sauces, a special egg-batter bread, cookies, chocolate, and sugary confections in a variety of animal or skull shapes.
Christmas - Dec 24th
Yes, that’s correct! In Mexico, Christmas Day is celebrated on the 24th of December rather than the 25th. Although often celebrations carry on well into the 25th and sometimes the 26th too!
Three Kings Day - 6th Jan
According to St Matthew, the 6th Jan is when the three Kings arrived in Bethlehem and gave their presents to Jesus. Traditionally, this is when the Mexican Kids receive their Christmas presents.
I’m not sure how widely observed this is in the more modern society that is today’s Cancun. We for one tend to stick with Christmas for our daughters present giving but hold one or two back for Three Kings Day.
It is also customary to eat a special kind of sweet fruity bread called Rosca de Reyes. The bread contains small figurines of Jesus and the person who discovers the figure in their portion is expected to hold a party on February 2nd!