Noche de los Rábanos
December 23– 26, Oaxaca City, Mexico
We’ve covered this quirky festival before on Culture Trip and Oaxaca City’s Noche de los Rábanos in Oaxaca continues to be a favorite of internet commentators searching for unusual Mexican celebrations. They have good reason to focus their attention on this festival too, as it really is an annual celebration of carved radishes. The prize and pride for the winner is immeasurable, as is the massive queue to get a look at the imaginative creations.
La Pasión de Cristo
Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday, Mexico City, Mexico
Another festive celebration for your calendars is Mexico City’s annual Easter Passion of the Christ tradition. This massive event is a big deal in the surrounding area, as the eight Iztapalapa neighborhoods come together to put on what must be essentially one of Mexico’s biggest open air theatre performances. They elect a ‘Jesus’ (someone strong, single, Christian and native to Iztapalapa) who carries a cross up the Cerro de la Estrella and is ‘crucified’ and crowned with thorns. It really is something.
Las Morismas de Bracho
The last Thursday of August until the following Sunday, Zacatecas, Mexico
Moving onto another re-enactment now, this time in the state of Zacatecas. Known more commonly as La Morisma de Guadalupe, Las Morismas de Bracho is the version of festivities held in the state capital, just outside the historic center. During the celebration, three events are honored: the death of Juan Bautista, the death of Almirante Balán and the Battle of Lepanto. There are parades, music and recreations of the famed events.
La Vela de las Auténticas Intrépidas Buscadoras del Peligro
Late November, Oaxaca, Mexico
Oaxaca is awash with some interesting and unusual traditions, principally because it still has a large indigenous community in many areas. This is a big factor in the annual La Vela de las Auténticas Intrépidas Bascadoras del Peligro, which celebrates Mexico’s so-called third gender, the muxes. Often considered the party to end all parties (people in Juchitán are known for being big drinkers), this is a multiple-day event at which the central attraction is the often outrageous muxe ‘beauty pageant’.
Día de Muertos
November 1–2, Countrywide
Perhaps the most famous Mexican celebration, this is admittedly a day that many Latin Americans celebrate, and is all too often conflated with Halloween. However, it is undeniably Mexico that is most associated with the Day of the Dead. Over the two-day period, families take the time to honor their loved ones by creating altars which contain symbolic items, flowers and food among other items. The idea is that death is not to be mourned, but celebrated, which explains the colorful vibrancy and sugar skull iconography associated with the festivities.
August 19, Tlaxcala, Mexico
Similar to Spain’s Running of the Bulls celebration in Pamplona, Tlaxcala’s La Huamantlada (named after the small town of Huamantla in which it takes place) is an equally odd, if much lesser known version of this crazy event. Bulls are released into the streets as the crowd tries to outrun their advances. Unsurprisingly, there are regularly reported injuries each year, so take care if you want to get involved. Honestly? We recommend you simply revel in the art of spectating at this weird Mexican celebration.
February 22–28, Veracruz and Sinaloa, Mexico
Brazil steals the limelight when it comes to Carnaval celebrations, as does New Orleans with Mardi Gras. However, Mexico is a big party country too and also has its very own excellent iterations of the famed street-party celebrations. Marked as an official Mexican holiday, Carnaval lasts for five full days before Ash Wednesday. Supposedly, this marks one last blow-out before the strict fasting of Lent begins and it certainly is a massive occasion. Two places are known for magnificent Carnaval celebrations – Mazatlán and Veracruz.