Mexico is a country rich in culture and tradition. Throughout the year, Mexicans celebrate various lively festivals and events that showcase the country’s history, beliefs, food, music, and art. From religious celebrations to local traditions, Mexico’s festivals are an exciting glimpse into the soul of the nation.
Many of Mexico’s most popular festivals have religious origins and meanings. As a predominantly Catholic country, most of these religious celebrations center around events in the lives of Jesus Christ and the Saints.
Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos)
One of Mexico’s most distinctive and widely-celebrated festivals, Day of the Dead takes place on November 1st and 2nd. During this holiday, Mexicans remember and honor deceased loved ones. Families create ofrendas (offerings) on gravesites and in homes, containing the favorite foods, drinks, and possessions of those who have passed. People don colorful skull masks and costumes and eat themed baked goods like pan de muerto (bread of the dead). Day of the Dead features parades, parties, and other festive rituals.
Our Lady of Guadalupe (La Virgen de Guadalupe)
Each year on December 12th, Mexicans observe the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This marks the famous appearance of the Virgin Mary on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City in 1531. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe receives millions of Catholic pilgrims annually on this date. People decorate home shrines and altars with roses and angels in honor of Mexico’s patron saint.
Easter (Semana Santa)
Holy Week (Semana Santa) leading up to Easter is celebrated fervently in Mexico. During this time, people reenact Passion plays, dramatizing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. On Good Friday, there are large parades through the streets carrying sculptures and portrayals of biblical events. Many Mexican families have special Easter meals featuring dishes like cod fish and romeritos (shrimp potato stew).
In Mexico, the Christmas season lasts from December 12th to January 6th. Most Mexicans are Catholic and honor traditions like erecting nativity scenes, called nacimientos. Before Christmas, neighborhoods host posadas. These are processions recreating Joseph and Mary’s search for lodging in Bethlehem. People go door to door with candles, singing carols, and getting treats. On Christmas Eve, families gather for a big dinner and attend midnight mass.
Civic and National Holidays
Mexico’s national and civic holidays celebrate important events and figures in the country’s history. These patriotic festivals instill a sense of Mexican cultural identity.
Independence Day (Día de la Independencia)
On September 16th, Mexicans commemorate their independence from Spanish rule. Towns are adorned in the national colors of red, white, and green. People gather in plazas and have picnics while mariachi bands play. The president rings the independence bell in Mexico City at 11 pm on September 15th to kick off the celebration. Fireworks, parades, and fiestas carry on into the next day.
Cinco de Mayo
While a minor occasion in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is hugely popular in the United States. It celebrates Mexico’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. In Mexico City, military reenactments commemorate the historic win. Elsewhere, events include parades, folk dancing, food, and music.
Revolution Day (Día de la Revolución)
On November 20th, Revolution Day honors the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910. This 10-year civil war radically changed Mexico’s political, cultural, and social landscape. To mark this defining time, military parades occur in major cities. People also reenact important revolutionary battle scenes and speeches.
Local and Regional Festivals
Alongside nationwide events, Mexico has countless festivals unique to certain cities, towns, and regions. These localized celebrations showcase beloved traditions, delicious foods, proud history, and distinct cultural influences.
Alebrije Parade (Desfile de Alebrijes)
Every October before Day of the Dead, Mexico City hosts the Alebrije Parade. It features people in colorful, fantastical costumes and giant alebrije sculptures. Alebrijes are folk art creatures like dragons, unicorns, and mystical beings combining animal parts. Artists create elaborate alebrije floats and displays for the parade.
Festival of San Marcos
In the state of Aguascalientes, San Marcos holds a huge national fair each April. People come from all over Mexico to see the bullfights, rodeos, craft markets, food stalls, and parades. There are also musical performances and cultural events. It’s like a massive county fair attracting over a million people.
Festival of the Señor de Las Misericordias
Michoacán’s Festival of the Señor de Las Misericordias occurs in the city of Comachuen every November. It honors a statue of Christ said to possess miraculous healing powers. Indigenous Purepecha people make an annual pilgrimage carrying the sacred statue into Comachuen. The festival has pre-Hispanic ritual roots along with Catholic meaning.
Yucatán Spring Equinox
The Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in Yucatán host a unique equinox celebration. On the first day of spring, the feathered serpent god Kukulkan is said to appear. The pyramid El Castillo has an astronomical alignment creating a shadow resembling a snake that moves down the staircase on the equinox as the sun sets.
During the days leading up to Lent, many places in Mexico hold Carnival celebrations. Also known as Mardi Gras, this is a time for parades, costumes, music, food, and fun before the more solemn Easter season begins.
Carnival of Mazatlán
Mazatlán’s Pacific coast carnival is Mexico’s largest. For weeks, parades with floats and dancers wind through the city. Concerts, grito contests (yelling contests), fireworks, and beach parties draw big crowds. A spectacular finale occurs on Shrove Tuesday with people in imaginative costumes dancing next to sculptures of Caribbean pirate ships.
Veracruz hosts Mexico’s oldest and liveliest carnival. The port city’s Caribbean and European influences shape the event. Trios of musicians called comparsas march down streets in lavish costumes. Carnival queens are crowned nightly, treated like royalty while riding parade floats. Culinary delicacies like tamales and toritos (flavored cookies) are abundant.
Mazatlan Carnival Schedule
|February 5||Grito de Independencia Contest|
|February 16||Soccer Cup Finals|
|February 18||Opening Parade|
|February 22||Combate Naval Parade|
|February 25||Parade of Lights|
|February 28||Burning of Juan Carnaval|
Key Veracruz Carnival Events
|February 6||Dance of the Gremios|
|February 16||Naval Combat Parade|
|February 25||Grand Parade|
|February 28||Burial of Juan Carnaval|
Mexico has an incredibly rich and diverse culinary landscape. There are many festivals dedicated to regional foods and ingredients across the country.
Each October, Toluca hosts an alfeñique fair celebrating these traditional Mexican candy figures. Vendors sell skulls, coffins, skeletons, angels, and more all made from alfeñique. These are crafted from sugar, egg whites, flour, lemon, and anise seeds. The festival coincides with Day of the Dead when sugar skulls are integral offerings.
San Pedro Atocpan near Mexico City is the mole capital of the country. Each fall, the town holds a huge festival devoted to this classic Mexican sauce with Aztec roots. While savoring delicious mole samplings, people can watch mole sauce contests, folk dancing, and parades. Oaxaca also has a renowned mole festival every summer.
Held each November in Guadalajara, this festival honors Mexico’s iconic spirit, tequila. It takes place in the city’s most important plaza beside the grand Temple of Expiation. Tequila producers showcase their varieties while mariachis perform. The event offers tastings, food pairings, and displays about tequila production.
With its rich musical heritage, Mexico hosts exciting festivals where you can hear traditional, modern, and fusion genres. From mariachi to electronic, Mexico’s music festivals cover it all.
International Mariachi Festival
Each August, Mexico City has a five-day International Mariachi Festival. Mariachi bands come from around the world to compete and perform. Concerts, workshops, and events like the Mariachi Mass occur at the capital’s major plazas and theaters. Folkloric ballet performances complement the mariachi music.
One of Mexico’s biggest music festivals is Vive Latino held in Mexico City each March. It started in 1998 and features predominantly Latin rock and pop acts. Some genres like electronic, reggae, and rap are also represented. Over 150 national and international musicians perform on 6 stages over 2 days for around 68,000 festivalgoers.
This world-renowned annual cultural festival in Guanajuato includes an excellent music lineup. Jazz, opera, classical, traditional Mexican folk, electronic, hip hop, and more are presented in the city’s iconic plazas and theaters. Cervantino honors both emerging new acts and famous artists from Mexico and abroad.
Mexico has a burgeoning film industry and vibrant movie culture. This is showcased at various cinema festivals occurring across the country.
Guadalajara International Film Festival (FICG)
Considered the most prestigious film festival in Latin America, FICG takes place each March in Guadalajara. It screens Mexican and international fiction, documentaries, shorts, and animation. FICG is attended by over 200,000 viewers and hundreds of filmmakers. There are also workshops, tributes, and parties.
Los Cabos International Film Festival
Hosted in the resort town of Cabos San Lucas each November, this festival has grown prominent since launching in 2012. It showcases about 100 films from Mexico and around the world. Premieres, awards, panels, and tributes with big-name stars occur during the five-day event.
With a focus on indigenous cinema, Oaxaca’s international film festival was created in 2010. Each October, it presents features, documentaries, and shorts relevant to native cultures in Mexico and worldwide. Workshops, live music, art exhibits, and mezcal tastings complement the screenings.
Arts and Culture Festivals
Mexico has various festivals that celebrate writing, visual arts, dance, theater, and other creative disciplines.
Feria Maestros del Arte
Chapala has hosted the Masters of Art Fair for over 60 years each February. It showcases fine art from Mexican painters, sculptors, photographers, and printmakers. The family-friendly event has food stalls, children’s activities, and live music alongside the exhibition and sales.
Festival Alfonso Reyes
Monterrey’s annual Festival Alfonso Reyes revolves around literature and the humanities. It started in 2007 to honor the city’s influential native writer. Venues across Monterrey host readings, lectures, poetry, storytelling, philosophy talks, and more during the September event.
Festival Internacional Cervantino
Along with music, Guanajuato’s prestigious Cervantino Festival contains theater, dance, visual arts, cinema, literature, and more. Artists and productions from Mexico and the world stage numerous lively performances throughout the city in October.
Mexicans have a zeal for sports, especially soccer, boxing, and charrería (Mexican rodeo). Various festivals celebrate fitness and athletic competitions.
Baja California hosts the grueling off-road race called the Baja 1000 each November. Since 1967, the motocross and ATV course has run about 1000 miles down Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Racers, fans, and media flock to Ensenada for the start of this adventurous contest featuring cars, trucks, motorcycles, and buggies.
Extreme Bull Riding Mexico
Cities across Mexico host events on the Extreme Bull Riding Mexico circuit. Riders attempt to last 8 seconds atop bucking bulls that can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. La Feria de San Marcos bull riding festivities draw big crowds in Aguascalientes in April.
This historic Mexican car race occurred from 1950 to 1954 along the Pan-American Highway. It was revived in 1988 as a classic car rally race through central Mexico each October. Vintage automobiles from the race’s heyday compete on the challenging course from Oaxaca City to Zacatecas.
Mexico overflows with incredible festivals reflecting the country’s diversity, heritage, and local traditions. From savoring mole and tequila at food fairs to dancing alongside parade floats or cheering on athletes, there are so many ways to experience Mexico’s dynamic culture by attending its famous festivities. Whether honoring saints, history, art, or harvests, Mexico’s festivals offer lively celebrations that engage both locals and visitors in this spirited land.