The festivities in Mexico City really start on December 12, the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. At Guadalupe’s shrine in the city’s Basilicia, you will find pilgrims who travel from across the country and the world to get a glimpse at her image and pray for blessings on their upcoming year. Las Mañanitas, the Mexican birthday song is sung to the Virgin at midnight, and dances and music are held in the plaza in front of the Basilica all day long. Neighborhoods also celebrate with a midnight birthday song to the virgin, but these are much more intimate events.
From December 16 until Christmas Eve, the posadas are held, meant to represent the journey of Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem for the birth of Christ. Groups of neighbors go door to door, singing songs and asking for shelter, and people host parties in their homes with food, piñatas, toys for the kids, and lots of alcohol for the adults. Outside of every neighborhood, holiday markets spring up selling Christmas trees and food. The city’s most fantastic Christmas tianguis is outside of the Jamaica Market where you will find items for your nativity scene, Christmas trees, and massive piñatas for your posada or holiday party.
Downtown in the city’s main plaza, the zocalo, a giant Christmas tree is erected and a skating rink is laid down for the month. Because of the massive numbers of skaters in the city that want to have a go, you do have to take a number and wait for your turn, but ice skating atop of the ruins of the majestic Aztec capital is quite an experience. Although Mexico City doesn’t get particularly cold for the holidays, there is enough of a chill in the air for a sweater and hot chocolate, and many street musicians in the Centro play Christmas Carols as you pass.
Most restaurants are closed for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but open the rest of the holiday season, so check ahead if you want to go somewhere specifically, but the holidays are still a great time to take a food tour or trip out to Teotihuacan—most tour companies and private guides are open for business during this time. Check museum hours as well as they vary as the big day approaches.
For New Years there are lots of clubs and bars that have end-of-year parties and celebrations, as well as restaurants with set menus for the night that you must reserve at least several weeks in advance, so plan ahead. The rooftop bars in the Centro Historico are some of the best places to be when the clock strikes midnight.