The holiday season is an enchanting time to visit the Riviera Maya. Gifts are exchanged, delicious Christmas dinners are served, and festive decorations light up the various coastal towns. While many of the holiday traditions take place within locals’ homes, even those who are fairly unacquainted with the region can enjoy the festive and inviting atmosphere. Here’s our guide to the best public events, as well as other ways you can spend your holiday vacation in the Riviera Maya.
Watch or Take Part in a Traditional Holiday Celebration
The holiday season in Mexico is full of important cultural events, meaning that visiting during this time gives you a rare look into the culture of the region. Here’s a guide to the month’s festivities:
Processions and Parades
If you arrive early in the month, you’ll catch one of the most important holidays of the year: the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This Catholic feast honors the appearance of the Virgin Mary in Mexico in the 16th century. Processions are held all over the country and can be experienced around the resort. The main celebration is held on December 12.
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Las Posadas are traditional re-enactments of Mary and Joseph’s search for a Bethlehem home and are common throughout Latin America. Between December 16 and 24, these nightly processions honor the sacred event, but also include music, food, piñatas, and other festive traditions.
Nochebuena is the spanish name for Christmas Eve (December 24). This is usually the biggest feast of the Christmas season and the night when many families exchange gifts. Mahekal Beach Resort is throwing its own Nochebuena celebration, with traditional foods and activities to enjoy.
As with most places around the world, New Year’s in Mexico is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. However, instead of snow and cold weather, here’s it’s usually enjoyed with sunshine and toes in the sand. Some common Near Year’s traditions in Mexico are making resolutions and ringing a bell at midnight. It’s also common to eat 12 grapes at midnight and make a wish with each one. The wishes can also serve as a list of resolutions for the new year.
Dia de los Reyes
Three Kings’ Day is celebrated on January 6. This is the day where a lot of children receive their holiday presents. Celebrations are common, as are traditional treats, such as rosca de reyes, a round fruit cake with a small figurine of baby Jesus hidden inside. Whoever finds the figurine must take it to the nearest church on February 2, or Día de la Candelaria (Candelmas Day). That person is then responsible for hosting a dinner and providing tamales and atole for guests.
Stock up on gifts and souvenirs
If you wish to purchase gifts for friends and family back home (or perhaps treat yourself to a gift), discover hundreds of year-round shops in Quinta Avenida, Cancún’s Zona Hotelera, and Tulum Bazaar, alongside seasonal markets and bazaars in resort areas such as Puerto Morelos and Xcaret’s Parque la Ceiba.
Sample festive foods
There’s no shortage of incredible restaurants throughout the Riviera Maya’s many resort towns, so whatever cuisine you crave for your holiday dinner, you’ll find it: American, Italian, French, Thai, Japanese … But if you prefer to sample the regional cuisine, visit one of the local restaurants throughout the towns, many of which serve their own variations of Mexican seasonal delicacies. In addition to rosca de reyes, look out for pozole (hominy soup), tamales, menudo, Mexican-style saltfish (bacalao), romeritos, pierna adobada, and ponche Navideño — warm punch made from cinnamon, hibiscus, and tropical fruits.
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If you’re thinking of spending the holidays in Riviera Maya, take a look at the rooms and suites at Mahekal Beach Resort and start planning your stay.