El Dia de Reyes
The Translation of 'El Dia de Reyes' is 'Three Kings Day.' This Mexican holiday falls on January 6 and is special because it is considered to be the peak of Christmas season. The twelve days of Christmas prior to 'El Dia de Reyes' are also significant because they represent the length of time the three wise men traveled from far away to bring gifts to baby Jesus. Instead of exchanging gifts on Christmas day, the custom in Mexico is for children to open presents on 'El Dia de Reyes.'
Carnival is a five-day celebration that begins on Ash Wednesday as the Catholic lent starts. Throughout the week prior to lent, this time is celebrated with colorful costumes, music, floats, parades, and dancing down the streets. The celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is very similar to the celebration of Carnaval in Mexico. Carnival usually takes place in mid-to-late February.
Dia de Los Muertos
'Dia de los Muertos,' or Day of the Dead, is a holiday about the acceptance of life and death. Because death is merely a part of life, the Mexican culture celebrates this as a part of the cycle of life. This holiday originally came from the Catholic feast of All Soul's Day, which is a time to remember those who have passed away. As rememberance, Mexican families decorate their house with an alter; Beneath the alter they place photographs of their deceased loved ones, and items such as food and cigarettes as offerings.
Dia de Independencia
Dia de Independencia, on September 16, is a holiday that represents the inciting day of Mexico's fight for Independence from Spain. Another name for this holiday is Dieciseis de Septiembre. In addition to food and festivities, most townspeople in Mexico will gather in the town center in the middle of the night to rally and shout out sayings to commemorate the day. For example "El Grito de Independencia!" or "Viva Mexico!"
Next to Christmas, this week-long celebration is very important in Mexico as it represents the time from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. It is common for most Mexicans to take a holiday or go on vacation during this time. Since most of Mexico is Catholic, it is quite common to have religious-significant holidays such as Semana Santa. A common practice in many small towns during Semana Santa is to act out the scene of Jesus' Crucifixion.
Noche Buena, or 'Good Night,' on December 24th is a time for Mexican families to accumulate the holiday festivities of the Christmas season to end at one midnight mass, called Misa de Gallo. After this midnight mass, families return to their homes to have a Christmas dinner which includes both traditional and regional dishes such as Biscayan cod and romeritos. When dinner has ended, gifts are distributed to the children and the families will stay awake spending time with each other until daybreak.