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Travel Info >> Holidays and Festivals -- Costa Maya & Quintana Roo, Mexico

Throughout Quintana Roo (and all of Mexico) you will find streets blocked off for Parades at all times of the year. It is helpful to know the dates of the various religious holidays as you may find it very difficult to pass through a town during a parade. You are almost guaranteed there will be a parade on a religious holiday. In Mexico however, there are many festivals and significant days associated only with particular towns and it is often difficult to find out the days they occur.

Jan 6 -- Dia de Los Santos Reyes -- Millions of Mexicans (including Mayan Beach garden guests) celebrate with Roscas de Reyes

Dec. 12 day of the Virgin of Guadalupe runners wearing the colors of the flag - .

Nov. 1-2 Day of the Dead - Lupe with day of the dead bread - decorated with cross-bones


Mexico is famous for its celebrations. Because of its small population, the Costa Maya as of yet does not have any unique historical celebrations (unless you include the celebration of the opening of Lobster season!), but all of the traditional Mexican holidays are celebrated and most of the people are catholic, so Catholic holidays are all celebrated.
: I am not a Mexican native, so the information here is collected by asking Mexican friends and employees of Mayan Beach Garden.

January 1 -- Año Nuevo The first day of each year is a very important day. When we first moved to Mexico we were astounded to see that stores are open on Christmas day,but NOT on January 1st. This is a day to spend time with family, make resolutions and think about the year that has past. This is a legal paid holiday for most Mexicans

January 6 -- Día de Los Santos Reyes or the Day of Kings/Magi. This is the day that celebrates the visit of the three wise men to Jesus Christ. On this day, Mexicans exchange Christmas presents and culminate the celebrations of Christmas. On the Christian calendar, the twelfth day after Christmas. It is known as "Epiphany", "Twelfth Night", or "Kings Day." It is the day in Mexico that children receive presents in commemoration of the gift of the Magi.

Culinary note:. If you go into any grocery store the week before January 6th, you will see piled high special ring-shaped cake called a Roscas de Reyes. Rosca is the name given to any ring-shaped bread or cookie. On this day, Inside each cake are hidden tiny plastic figurines that represent the Christ child or Baby Jesus. The hidden figurine symbolizes the hiding of the infant from King Herod's troops. Each person cuts their own piece of cake, and the person who finds one of the dolls in their piece must host a party for everyone there, to be held on February 2nd. Mayan Beach Garden serves Roscas de Reyes with Mexican chocolate on Dia de Los Santos Reyes. You dip the coffee cake which is somewhat dry into the rich Mexican chocolate. Its a real treat!

February 2 -- Día de la Candelaria or Candlemas, is a religious holiday also called the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. The day is celebrated with processions, dancing, bullfights in some cities, and the blessing of the seeds and candles The person who got the plastic figurine of Jesus in the Roscas on Dia de Los Santos Reyes is responsible for throwing a fiesta for friends and family. Its also marks the day that the Nativity scene is put away. Generally, they celebrate with a dinner party with Tamales and invite all the family and friends that were present at the Rosca de Reyes or Kings Bread cutting.

Culinary note: Mayan Beach Garden follows tradition and serves tamales on this day wrapped in banana leaves and filled with shredded chicken. Tamales are a lot of work but a favorite here at Mayan Beach Garden !

February 5 -- Día de la Constitución -- official holiday that commemorates Mexico's Constitution. Banks are not open on this day.

February 23-28 (2006) -- Carnaval is an official Mexican holiday that kicks off a five-day celebration before Catholic Lent. Carnaval is celebrated in Mahahual with a party and dancing in the coast road. Chetumal and Bacalar also have week long Carnaval festivities. Dates change for Carnaval each year: 2007: Feb. 15-20; 2008: Jan 31 - Feb. 5; 2009: Feb. 19-24; 2010: Deb 11-16.

February 24 -- Día de la Bandera or Flag Day, This Mexican national holiday honors the Mexican flag. All over Mexico you will see vendors selling flags and items of the national colors - green, white and red.

March 21st - Spring Equinox and Benito Juarez Birthday
You won't find too much notice of the Equinox being celebrate on the Costa Maya with the exception of a few bars taking advantage create a theme party. If venture north to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, Kukulcan, the sacred serpent appears to emerge from his temple atop the pyramid of El Castillo to slither to the ground below, and to return to his temple at the fall equinox. It is the mathematical precision of the construction of the temple and the play of light and shadow which produces this phenomenon twice a year. The place can be very crowded if you decide you want to visit and entrance to the ruins may be limited to a certain number.

This is also the birth date of Benito Juárez, one of Mexico's most revered rulers. Almost every town in Mexico, including Chetumal has a major street named after the Zapotec Indian who became one of the most honored of Mexican presidents. Juarez’s birthday is widely celebrated with parties, dances and music throughout the whole country, and I assume will be celebrated along the Costa Maya as well.

Holy Week -- Semana Santa - the week before Easter -
For most Mexicans, this period is the time of year for vacation therefore this is not the best time for traveling without having booked in advance. Last year, all hotels along the Costa Maya were booked and prices doubled and tripled in Mahahual. Mexicans are like everyone -- they like to vacation on the beach and for miles one can see tents pitched and happy Mexican families enjoying the week with their children. There is no school and while the Friday before Easter is the legal holiday, many businesses close shop and if you have business in Chetumal it is impossible to get any legal paperwork accomplished during that week. Festivals, parties and religious events are held everywhere, with live reenactments of the last week of the life of Jesus, including Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

April 30-- Día del Niño or Children’s Day. This is similar to Mother's day in the US where Children are honored with parties and gifts, usually cakes and sometimes a piñata filled with candy.

May 1 Día del Trabajo - Labor Day or day of the worker. This is a National paid holiday . Businesses and government offices are all closed. Occasionally you may see protests.

May 5- Cinco de Mayo
This marks the famous drinking holiday commonly referred to as Cinco de Mayo, or the Battle of Puebla. Contrary to popular belief, this day does not celebrate Mexican independence, but instead the triumph of a small group of soldiers who successfully defeated a French battalion twice its size near the city of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Now it is primarily an excuse to have a fiesta and drink. Government offices and banks are closed.

May 10 -- Dia de Las Madres -- Mother's Day
Unlike Mother's Day in the US which always comes on a Sunday, Mother's day in Mexico is always on the 10th of May. It is an especially significant holiday as mothers are respected here. Many local people take a half day off when they can take their mother out to celebrate their special day. Red and white roses are a hot selling item all over the city of Chetumal. Most government offices are closed.

May 25-29 (2006 ) Cancun Jazz Festival
The Cancun Jazz Festival began in 1991 and has been successfully drawing crowds of jazz and sun lovers ever since. All types of jazz - from traditional to contemporary, Afro-Latin to Cuban - its following is mostly African-American; however it does attract a huge selection of people from around the world and of all ages. If you're a jazz fan, Cancun is the place to go during the month of May. Day and night the streets are packed, and the party is where ever you are: from the club district to the beach. When one gets tired of the partying in Cancun, the peace and solitude of the Costa Maya is a welcome respite.

June 1 - Dia de la Marina (Navy Day)
Navy Day is celebrated throughout the Mexican Ports with civic ceremonies, parades, fishing tournaments, sailing competitions, parties and fireworks. Celebrations are particularly colorful in Playa del Carmen. At some point, expect there to be celebrations in Mahahual and Xcalak as there is a Navy base here.

Mid June, Corpus Christi
This religions festival began in 1526 and is a Christian celebration honoring the Body of Christ. Religion rites and processions are organized by local churches throughout Mexico. At this writing, Mahahual does not have a church building. The typical craft of this day are “mulitas”, little mules made of corn leaves and decorated with painted pasta.

June 24 Fiesta de San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist Feast)
A popular nationwide holiday marked by Serenades, parades, pilgrimages and fireworks.

Aug. 15th Dia de la Asuncion de la Virgen (Assumption Day)
This religious event is celebrated with processions, parades of flowers and rites all over the country, and especially in Mexico City with a huge mass at the Basilica de La Virgen de Guadalupe, home of the original image of the Virgin which is revered nationwide.

Sept 16th Independence Day - Dia de la Independencia or Dia de la Patria Don't plan on anything being open beginning about 1:00 on the 15th or on the 16th. The celebration of Mexico’s independence declaration from Spain in 1810 is the most important national holiday. Public buildings in all cities are draped with the national flag and a huge military parade takes the main streets of the Zocalo, all dressed in green and red. “El Grito”, a reenactment of Father Hidalgo’s call for his countrymen to join the uprising, is performed by the president at 11 pm on the 15th from the National Palace, in Mexico City’s Constitution Square, as well as in most town squares. At the shout of “Viva Mexico”, the Mexicans shouts back “Viva” nationwide. The town of Mahahual began celebrating this day in 2004.
Culinary note: As in most big holidays, Mexicans enjoy eating with friends and family. After the festivities at 11:00 it is time for eating traditional food such as pozole, tacos, and tamales and for drinking alcoholic beverages till the early morning. We serve a dish from Pueble - Chili en Nogades. The chili is stuffed with Picadillo (meat, vegetable and fruit combination) and then covered with a walnut cream sauce. The sauce is white and a garnish of pomegranate seeds and green parsley add the red and green to make the colors of the flag.

Sep 21- Autumn Equinox
The Equinox marks the first day of Autumn. Just as during the Spring Equinox, the archaeological sites where temples were built to mark the change of the seasons and perform fertility rituals are very crowded between the 20th and the 22nd. In Chichen Itza the setting sun marks a long shadow which crawls down the huge pyramid of the Castillo: it’s the body of one of the main Mayan gods, the Feathered Serpent, going to reach its head, carved in stone at the base of the Pyramid.

October 12th Race Day or Columbus Day (Dia de la Raza)
It means literally "day of the race" and commemorates Columbus' discovery of the New World and the founding of the Mexican (mextizo) people. Festivities take place all throughout Mexico, celebrating the many different races of Native Americans: Aztecs, Mayas, Incas and the fusion between the Spanish and the many native cultures.

November 1-2 Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
This holiday is a perfect example of the complex heritage of the Mexican people. The beliefs of today's Mexicans are based on the blend of cultures of their ancestors: the “ofrendas” practices to the dead and the gods by the Aztec and Maya which are layered with Catholicism. November 1 is set aside for remembrance of all Saints, the deceased infants and children, often referred to as angelitos (little angels). Those who have died as adults are honored on November 2. Their relatives gather at cemeteries throughout Mexico, bringing skeletons and other macabre toys, colorful tissue paper, elaborate wreaths and crosses decorated with paper or silk flowers; candles and votive lights; and fresh seasonal flowers. These rituals are continued at home with the building of altars to the dead and are focused at inviting the spirits of the dead to return home for sharing laughter, tears and memories.
Culinary NOTE: Throughout the markets in Chetumal, you will find skulls and coffins made from sugar, chocolate or amaranth seeds and “pan de muerto”, the main “ofrenda de muertos” (offering to the dead). We serve this bread at Mayan Beach Garden, fresh baked in our kitchen and served with hot chocolate. It is also a day to eat all the good foods that the ancestors enjoyed. At Mayan Beach Garden, that means serving Chili Mole - a completely black and white food. I asked my cook what you would eat if your relative didn't like chili mole and he assured me it was everyone's favorite. While Chili Mole is occasionally eaten at other times of the year, like turkey at Thanksgiving, it is primarily served on Nov. 2nd.

Nov. 20th Day of the Revolution (Dia de la Revolucion)
On November 20, Mexico celebrates the anniversary of its Revolution. On this date in 1910 Mexico’s ten-year civil war to overthrow the dictator Porfirio Díaz began. The celebrations include parades, speeches, fiestas, fireworks, and rodeos. This is a paid holiday and banks and governement offices are closed.

Dec. 8th The Immaculate Conception (La Inmaculada Concepción de la Virgen María)
Hundreds of pilgrims visit the sanctuaries dedicated to the Virgin during this day. Everyone bears candles and floral offerings which are deposited at the altar.

Dec. 12 -Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe - patroness of Mexico. Pilgrims from around the country converge at the famous basilica in Mexico City, where the revered shroud displaying the image of the Virgin is held. The Virgin appeared to a Mexican Native, Juan Diego, in 1531, asking him to build a church for her on Tepeyac hill. She asked Diego to pick some roses and give them to the bishop when conveying the Virgin’s request. Diego carried the roses in his cloak, barefoot running for many miles and when he got to the bishop and let the roses spill out in front of him, a wonderful image of the Virgin was emblazoned in the shroud. Yearly his trek is repeated by thousands of Mexicans who run along the sides of the roads in week long journeys across the country. Great respect is offered these runners who are often accompanied by police cars and given free food, drink and lodging. The only bad thing about this is that it really affects traffic as cars work to pass the runners safely.

Nine days leading up to Christmas Day (Posadas de Navidad)
Nine consecutive days of candlelight processions and lively parties re-enacting Mary & Joseph's search for an inn in Bethlehem precede the Christmas festivity. Every night the local communities arrange a party in a home, with plenty of food and drink, and candies and fruit for the children, who travel from door to door in the neighborhood in traditional costume singing carols, requesting a place to stay for the night. When they finally get to the designated house, they are let in and the party begins with the breaking of piñatas, Christmas carols, buñuelos (fried pastries covered with syrup or sugar), tamales, hot chocolate and ponche (fruit punch).

Dec. 25th-Navidad - Christmas in Mexico is a big event and Mexicans travel a lot from mid December until the Epiphany. This is definitely not the best period for last minute travel particularly if you have not booked in advance. Prices for accommodation and rental cars can increase 30-40%. Unlike the US, stores are not closed on Christmas day, but many people take two weeks off during this time. While Government offices are not officially closed, many important people go to their home towns so anything requiring official signatures can't get done for several weeks.

Culinary note: I always wanted to include traditional foods at Mayan Beach Garden. One of the most interesting is Bacalau - made from salt cod, olives and potatoes. We make plenty and then use it as leftovers several days later, in empanadas and with eggs.

Dec. 31 New Year's Eve . Parties are held in many towns all around Mexico, with fireworks and plenty of noise. Just before midnight church and clock bells toll twelve times, and people eat one grape making a wish for the New Year on each of the twelve strikes. Businesses are usually closed this day.


Updated 21-Jun-2011


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Mahahual Fishing Tournament the last week of April

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