Año Nuevo – New Year celebrations in Mexico
There is evidence that many pagan cultures celebrated New Years. The Romans dedicated the first day of the year to the God Janus, the two headed God looking both forwards and back. He is also the god of doors, beginnings and gates.
New Year’s is celebrated by most cultures based on their own calendar. Because of the adoption of Gregorian Calendar by most nations, New Year?s Eve is considered one of the few universal celebrations.
New Year’s Eve in Mexico
The traditional Mexican New Year’s Eve begins with a long late family dinner, the wait and countdown to midnight “Diez! Nueve! Ocho! Siete! Seis! Cinco! Cuatro! Tres! Dos? Feliz Año Nuevo and then hugs, kisses all around.
Times are changing. It is common now for family members to excuse themselves after dinner and venture out to private or street parties, or town plaza to enjoy fireworks and celebrations. For those that can afford it, upscale restaurants and hotels will host parties with special menus and bands for dancing. It is also becoming common for young people to travel together in a group to beach tourist destinations to celebrate the year end.
Mexico City hosts the largest celebrations in the country and the festivities are centered beside the Zocalo the large central plaza of the city and of Latin America. Parts of Paseo de la Reforma and the major street from the Palacio de Bellas Artes down to the Zocalo closed to cars. Stages are set up en-route and in the late afternoon various bands play to the hordes of people. It is a colorful event with parades, floats, costumes, firecrackers and sparklers all part of the festivities.
The countdown at the zocalo has been compared to that of New York Time Square with a very large and big name entertainment lineup covered by the TV networks. Fireworks are launched at midnight and everyone embraces each other for the “Feliz Año Nuevo!” The fireworks continue.
The party doesn’t stop there. The carnival atmosphere at the Paseo de la Reforma includes floats, bands and dancers well into the wee hours. An incredible amount of good will, party and energy with hordes of people from all walks of life.
Food & Drink
A traditional Mexican New Year’s Eve nearly always includes a dried and salted codfish called Bacalao. It is available in grocery stores throughout Mexico as Christmas approaches. It is a European dish; a stew of cod, tomatoes olives, capers and potatoes.
Other Mexican food include those that are popular for Christmas; Ensalada de Noche Buena (a particularly colorful salad), tamales, romeritos (a green leafy vegetable), pozole (pork/chicken soup), stuffed pork loin and turkey. Often the New Year’s Dinner will include various mole sauces.
At Midnight pan dulce and grapes are required. (see Customs below)
Ponche Navidad is a hot Mexican punch made with various fruits (tejocotes, guavas, apples to name a few) cinnamon and sweetened with piloncillo (small dark compressed brown sugar cones)
For renewal Mexicans may clean the house, take a bath, or wash the pets and cars to revitalize and ensure a clean future.
Bright and bold colors are typical for Mexican decorations but at New Years the colors signify a desire for the upcoming year. Red for courage, love and better lifestyle, Yellow for blessings and enjoyment. Green for financial success. White for good health.
Color of clothing is also an important opportunity to influence your destiny. Wearing white from head to toe to encourage a good spiritual year. Green invites good health.
Women must choose to wear either red or yellow undies. Red brings love while yellow attracts wealth. Women must decide which is more important. (We have heard that other colors also have significance but are not as universally accepted. Green underwear for health and well-being, Pink for true love and friendship, and white for hope and peace.)
There are many Mexican games that are played to amuse and entertain guests. In one game you are asked to write the good and bad events of the current year. After midnight you throw the notes into the fire symbolizing the new beginning and the removal of bad times.
Typical of many countries immediately after the countdown and cry, everyone embraces, Air-kisses near the cheek for the ladies, and a bear hug for men. (The rhythm is slap, slap, SLAP, slap, slap, SLAP on the back)
12 Grapes las doce uvas are eaten in a single minute, one at a time to assure good luck in the upcoming months. Often this is accompanied by the chimes of a clock. Some say that each grape represents a wish while others maintain that each represents good luck for the each of the months (1 for January, 2 for February etc) A sweet grape means it will be a good month next year; a sour grape, a bad month.
A good suggestion is to select small seedless grapes that are easy to swallow.
Pan dulce is served at the midnight, just at the juncture of the New Year. One coin is inserted into the bread before baking and the recipient of the coin during the pan dulce cutting ceremony is going to be the luckiest person in the upcoming year.
Fireworks are considered a mainstay in New Years celebrations are set to scare away negative spirits and bring safe passage to the new year.
Various small traditions are enacted. None are universal.
Pack a suitcase and walk around the block with it to ensure safe travel and wonderful adventures. If that is not possible, put the suitcase in the middle of the room and walk arount it for several minutes.
Throw a bucket of water out the window to ensure a new start and fresh beginning.
Open the door and sweep the threshold. Toss coins on the ground and then sweep them inside.
New Year’s Day
New Year’s Day January 1 is a national holiday and is an obligatory day of rest for schools, banks, post offices and government offices. Many stores restaurants and other businesses close voluntarily. However most tourist attractions; museums, galleries, archaeological sites remain open. Check before you go.