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A Journey Into Paradise

Nochebuena - Celebrating Christmas Eve in Mexico

23 December, 2013

Formally known as La Cena de Nochebuena,which literally translates to mean “the Good Night,” Christmas Eve is a magical time in Mexico,when families and friends gather together and enjoy a feast followed by plenty of music and giving small gifts. In fact,celebrations often carry over to Christmas morning,which is typically a time for everyone to rest.

On Christmas Eve many families throughout Mexico also attend Misa de Gallo,which literally translates to mean “Mass of Roosters,” but is called “Midnight Mass” in many other parts of the world. This age-old tradition celebrates the birth of Jesus,which is believed to have taken place at midnight,and according to legend the service originated when a rooster witnessed the birth and announced it to the world. It is customary for attendees to bring a figurine representing the baby Jesus from their home nativity scene to be blessed at the mass.

Food plays a very important role in Mexico Nochebuena celebrations,including a variety of main dishes and family recipes. Dinner may either precede or follow mass (or both!),but turkey is often a mainstay,as is pork,and it is customary to drink Coquito,an alcoholic beverage prepared with condensed milk,coconut and rum. 

“In Mexico,dinner can include tamales,atole,bacalo (cod) a la Vizcaina or romeritos en revoltijo (a dish made with Mexican greens) accompanied by bunelos (small donuts) for dessert and ponche (punch) to toast,” writes the Latin Post. “In the Caribbean,the main dish is roast pork with rice and beans,pastels (tamales) and different salads.”

Interestingly,the poinsettia,which is also a popular Christmas flower in the U.S.,is native to Mexico where it can reach heights of more than 12 feet! It blooms in November and December,which traditionally marks the beginning of the Christmas season. Known as la flor de nochebuena,these brightly colored flowers are tied to a legend where an angel appeared and turned a bouquet of weeds picked from the roadside by a little girl into these beautiful red blooms.

What does your family do to celebrate Christmas Eve? Share your special holiday traditions with other readers in the comments section below!