Category Archives: Mexican Holidays

Father’s Day in Mexico

Mexico has been a patriarchal society since pre-conquest times. Yet Father’s Day isn’t as popular in Mexico as Mother’s Day. Only about 50% of Mexican households celebrate Father’s Day, compared to 78% of households that celebrate Mother’s Day.  

According to Walmart, sales are only slightly higher than Valentine’s Day (El Dia del Padre no es Tan Padre). The Mexico City tourism president says this difference in spending is because the father provides the only income for the family and therefore chooses not to spend money on himself.  I don’t know about that. In our town, the women provide the main income for their families.

What I think is more likely, is that in many families, the father is somewhere else working.  One study estimates 9% of Mexican households are without a father in the house.  I find that figure extremely low. Another study says that nearly 35% of male immigrants to the US have children in Mexico under the age of 15. Again, I think that figure is too low.  There isn’t a reliable way to gather this information from undocumented workers or those that are only temporary workers (6 months in Mexico, 6 months in the US).  Those figures don’t include fathers who have gone away to work but are still in Mexico, either at the border or in larger cities.

Although, the father is still “el jefe de la familia” in the Mexican family whether or not he is living full-time under the same roof as his children there is perhaps less motivation to celebrate the holiday in his absence.  

Just like in the US, Father’s Day is the third Sunday in June. Instead of gifts, most families celebrate by having Dad’s favorite meal and letting him be to watch the afternoon soccer game in peace.

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Planting a tree on Father’s Day.

Since the extremely long school year found in most of Mexico means that students are not out for summer vacation yet, most schools have a Father’s Day event the following Monday.  Activities are usually planned that are a bit more dynamic than those expected for Mother’s Day. There are sack races, father/child soccer games, tree planting excursions and maybe a little bottle of tequila in the gift bag.

What are the Father’s Day traditions where you live?

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Birthday Boy

My son turned 16 in May. We opted to invite some of the family over for a cookout.  It went better than I expected. As you’ll see, Mexico does its own thing when it comes to birthdays.

In the morning, just at dawn, my husband and I crept into my son’s room to “dar el remojo” (give the soaking). Instead of birthday spankings, water is dumped on the birthday boy or girl. Way before the Catholic church arrived to baptize the indigenous people, rain was the blessing given by the gods. El cumpleaños (anniversary of completing years rather than the day you were born) deserves some liberal blessing libations, don’t you think? Of course, my son sputtered and flopped about like a drenched chicken, but a little water never hurt anyone (except the Wicked Witch of the West but she isn’t known here in Mexico).

In the afternoon, after we ate all the tacos we could eat, it was time for the cake. Instead of singing “Happy Birthday” the traditional song is “Las Mañanitas” which is also sung on Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, the Virgin of Guadalupe’s day and saints’ days. It’s a pretty song used for serenading. Typically, only the first verse is sung at birthdays followed by a coro (cheer) “A la bim, a la bam, a la bim bom bam, (name of the person, name of the person) Ra, ra, ra.” As it’s all nonsense, no translation is needed. Remember, in Mexico, more often than not, your birthday and the day to honor the Saint for which you were named are the same day, thus “el dia de tu santo” (your saint’s day) in the song still applies although it is sometimes altered to “tu cumpleaños.”

Las Mañanitas (1)

Despierta (nombre de la persona) despiertaPasó el tiempo de dormirYa los gallos muy contentos cantaron kikirikiYa viene amaneciendoya la luz del dia nos dió.Levantarte de la mañana,miAfter the singing, the chant begins “Que le sople. Que le sople.” encouraging the birthday boy or girl to blow out the candle. The next step is “Que le muerda. Que le muerda.”  The birthday boy/girl is instructed to take a bite out of the cake which inevitably results in a face plant when someone attacks from behind. Then the chant changes to “Que le parta. Que le parta.” indicating it is time for the cake to be cut and served. 

Breaking a piñata at a birthday party is typically only found at parties for the very young, and well-to-do families, or so says my husband.  Considering he came from a family with 11 children, it really wouldn’t have been affordable to have a piñata for every child’s birthday, so I can see his point. We have had piñatas in the past, but not this year. For the same reason, giving birthday gifts isn’t one of my husband’s family’s traditions. Thus, this was my son’s lone b-day present all decked out in Spiderman, for old times sake.

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So there you have it–the low-key event marking my son’s 16th birthday.

 

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Filed under Mexican Holidays, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

How We Spend Thanksgiving Day in Mexico

How We Spend Thanksgiving Day in Mexico

By Neva Gurrusquieta

Ah, there’s a chill in the air! Everything is pumpkin spice flavored, and I do mean everything!  Time to break out the fuzzy sweaters, the boots, and scarves.  The holidays are coming!  Some people are starting to get Christmas fever. (I do admit to watching at least one Christmas movie already), but there’s one more stop on the holiday train first.  Thanksgiving!! 

Back home, the regular college football season is winding down, and next weekend, the diehard fans in my family will watch the final game of a disappointing season for the home team.

In recent years, because our family has grown so much, we often celebrated Thanksgiving on the weekend prior, then my mom would take off with her friends to go to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  

My mother always kept a list on her fridge, a list of dishes she was preparing for our huge family, and who else was bringing what.  If I close my eyes, I can see her handwriting. She always made a turkey, a ham, at least three dishes of dressing, a big pot of gravy, and her famous potato salad. It was one of my brother’s favorites, so she always made it when he came home, and she continued the tradition even after he passed away.

Besides the non-negotiable dishes, she would make other favorites like corn pudding and collards. One sister would bring a broccoli casserole, another a green bean casserole, another deviled eggs.  I always brought Brussel sprouts for me and my brother in law, and some other dish which may or may not get sampled by the traditionalists at our table. Eventually, it became a challenge to see if someone would dare to try my dish each year. Chipotle butternut squash with asparagus and ginger, anyone?  Delish, but not traditionally southern, I know.

There was always a selection of homemade desserts which varied from year to year, chocolate cake, cheesecake, brownies, pecan pie, chocolate pie, coconut pie, and sweet potato pie. No pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie.  Just sayin’.

And to drink?  Sweet tea, of course!  But there was always a side pitcher of unsweetened tea for one of my sisters, and a couple of Coca-Colas for one of my brothers-in-law.

No Thanksgiving table would be complete without cranberry sauce of some kind, whether you serve jellied cranberry sauce or make your own from scratch with fresh, frozen, or dried whole berries. With eighty million cans sold every year and the nostalgia associated with this simple pleasure, I’m not alone when I opt for jellied for the Thanksgiving meal. 

Oh, wait…I’m in Mexico. Jellied cranberry sauce, if you can find it, isn’t cheap. The only pumpkin spice you’ll find around here is at Starbucks.  No fuzzy sweaters or boots or scarves. No college football. No Thanksgiving Day off. It’s a regular workday, a regular school day.

So what is an expat to do?  Lots of expats in small close communities do potluck dinners with friends since it’s not likely that all their extended families will make the journey for this most American of holidays. Some of those who are not closely connected with other expats are preparing the traditional meal for their new neighbors, or for close friends and family.

Some expats will order meals prepared by local caterers, others will simply eat out. We live in Queretaro, in central Mexico, and although there are expats here, I was unable to find a single restaurant offering an American style Thanksgiving dinner, and only one community event hosted by a private international school in their gymnasium for their students and families.  By contrast,  the large expat population in Yucatan creates a huge demand for holiday dishes, and a wide variety of options is available to those who live in that area, as we hope to do soon. 

There are only two options for us, prepare a huge, expensive meal for just the two of us, or not. We choose not.  The turkey alone would cost more than a day’s wages ($1.50/lb 15 lbs) so we would have to be in a much better position financially to throw that amount of money at one meal.

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We could purchase a turkey from a local farmer like we did a few years ago, but the effort takes an entire day and almost as much money. However, if anyone is so inclined, it is certainly an experience you won’t forget. I made a huge and quite expensive Thanksgiving meal that year with all the fixings to impress my in-laws and extended family.  I used Chef Anne Burrell’s brining recipe which I had used in prior years, so I knew it was going to be fantastic. The food was a huge hit with my husband’s family in southern Mexico, but they had to be convinced that I cooked it. Even with several eyewitnesses, I think some of them only pretended to believe so as not to be rude.

So, for us, there will be no big Thanksgiving meal this year. Instead, we will be celebrating the annual commemoration of the start of the Mexican Revolution on the Monday before Thanksgiving. My husband has a rare day off, and the typical celebratory activities for this holiday include little more than a beer and a nap.   There is even a “Black Friday” equivalent, “El Buen Fin”, or The Good Weekend” which we will also be skipping this year.

To all our fiercely loved family and friends back in the states, even though we are choosing to let Thursday pass as an ordinary food day this year, we will most certainly be expressing our thanks and gratitude for our many blessings, an especially poignant remembrance for us this year. No matter how you choose to spend Thanksgiving Day this year, I hope that our hearts as a nation will all begin to bend towards kindness and grace and that those heart attitudes will go with us throughout this entire holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Filed under Guest Blogger Adventures, Mexican Holidays, Southern Comfort Food Mexican Style

An Evolution of El Dia de Los Muertos

It has come to my attention that there is some debate about the proper name of the events that go on in Mexico on November 2.  Apparently there is a section of the population, although I’m unclear whether that population is Mexican or of Mexican descent, that believe the name is Dia de Muertos instead of the longer El Dia de los Muertos.

It is true that language is fluid and constantly evolving and the shortening of a name is a common occurrence.  After all, in the English language, All Hallows’ Evening is now known as Halloween and bears scant resemblance to how it was originally observed.  So it seems El Dia de los Muertos is undergoing a transition as well.

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For example, this year, our town that aspires to be a city, had a whole weekend of “Dia de Muertos” events in addition to the traditional altares en el jardin (alters in the center garden).  It was unprecedented!  There was a parade, just like in the James Bond movie, (well, almost) and a Catrina/Catrine best costume competition and even bikers dressed as skeletons out for an after-dark bike ride.

That’s not to say that El Dia de Los Muertos has never changed before. After the Spanish conquest, the original date for this celebration of life was changed to coincide with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Instead of obsidian disks, glass mirrors are brought to the cemetery now with the hope of catching a glimpse of departed loved ones.  Walmart now makes the pan de muerto (bread of the dead) instead of local bakers which left me without a sample of that sweet bread this year.  Sigh.  “Dia de Muertos” has become trendy and left behind the traditional El Dia de Los Muertos in many areas. Tourists flock to cemeteries to gawk at the tombs of the dead, adorned with love and cempasúchil (marigold) flower petals.

Even with all these new-fangled additions brought in locally, on November 1, known locally as El Dia de Los Angelitos, and on November 2, El Dia de los Muertos, everyone was en familia (with their families) at the panteon (cemetery).  I suppose the Civic fathers knew enough not to directly interfere with these customs and for this reason scheduled the events over the weekend instead of the high holy days.  

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And for us, it was still personal and private.  We visited my husband’s grandparents’ tomb in Cerano in the morning. We visited my husband’s mother’s tomb in the afternoon.  We left flowers and pictures and talked about our memories so that they will not die the third death yet, the death that comes when there is no one left to keep them alive in their hearts.

See Also El Dia de Los Muertos, Tio Felipe, The Day of the Dead)

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Filed under Death and all its trappings, Mexican Holidays, Religion