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Mexico’s Unusual Celebrations You Can’t Miss in 2017

Picture of Lauren Cocking
Northern England Writer
Updated: 16 January 2017
Mexico is a country with a whole of host of weird and wonderful traditions out there waiting for you, if only you knew where to find them. While the UK celebrates cheese rolling, and the US have the redneck games, Mexico’s strange (to outsiders at least) celebrations are distinctly more spiritual in nature – for the most part, anyway. Here’s your guide to all the weird celebrations you need to tick off the Mexico bucket list in 2017.
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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.

Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, México

Noche de los Rábanos. Or Night of the Radishes. Yes, really | © Travis/Flickr

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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.

Cerro de la Estrella, Iztapalapa, Ciudad de México, México

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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.

Zacatecas, Zacatecas, México

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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’.

Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, México

Muxes | © Mario Patinho/WikiCommons

La Vela de las Auténticas Intrépidas Buscadoras del Peligro celebrates the muxes in Oaxaca | © Mario Patinho/WikiCommons

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.

Día de Muertos | © Jenny Huey/Flickr
Día de Muertos | © Jenny Huey/Flickr
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La Huamantlada

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.

Huamantla, Tlaxcala, México

Carnaval

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.

Carnaval in Mazatlán is a party to rival Rio and Mardi Gras in New Orleans | © Malova Gobernador/Flickr
Carnaval in Mazatlán is a party to rival Rio Carnaval and Mardi Gras in New Orleans | © Malova Gobernador/Flickr