Christmas in Mexico: The Celebrations Guide to Mexican Cultural Christmas Traditions

Christmas in Mexico – a learning guide for kids and families and Spanish class

Learn about the culture surrounding Christmas traditions in Mexico through stories: children’s books, poems and rhymes, Mexican Christmas songs, and more.

From pinatas to Posada, from adornos to zapatos, from Cielito Lindo to Feliz Navidad, come learn about Christmas in Mexico through this collection of books, songs, and videos about Mexican cultural traditions for Christmas. Don’t forget to cook up the tamales as you fall into these great Christmas in Mexico traditions!

 

Disclaimer: This page about Mexican Christmas songs and books contains affiliate links which generate income at no cost to you. The links are provided for your convenience of finding these books, but you may get them at the nearest local bookstore or online used book re-seller nearest you. The local library is also a fantastic place to get thousands of books, free!

Christmas in Mexico: Mexican Christmas Traditions

The Night of the Posadas, by Tomie de Paola

Las Posadas are a tradition that take place in the week leading up to Christmas, usually between December 16 and 24. Before Jesus is born, Mary and Joseph must get to the inn and be turned away – and that became an annual festival, similar to the “Christmas play.” People in town dress up, go for a walk, re-enacting the turning away at the local inns. (Posada means inn, or place to stay.)

This book by Tomie De Paola recreates this annual festival that takes place in Mexico. Often this procession takes place with characters, perhaps even a donkey or a representation of a donkey. It may occur for 9 nights in a row, the novena, as each night from December 16 to the 24th the town goes to one designated “inn” or another, getting turned away.

Too Many Tamales, by Gary Soto

This is a Nochebuena story, a story that takes place at Christmas Time because the family is getting together to cook tamales. It is a story used in many classrooms to share Mexican culture, including the cooking of tamales – a holiday tradition.

The main character is prepping tamales when she tries on her mother’s ring. She misplaces the ring, and worries that the ring ended up IN the tamales. As a result, and because she is too scared to tell the truth of the misplacement, she and her cousins must eat all of the tamales looking for the ring. They find the ring elsewhere, and the moral of the story is to ask a grown-up for help, before you end up with a belly full of Christmas tamales and you still haven’t solved the problem.

This story is one full of family, cooking around the kitchen, and an incident where a girl makes a mistake and tries to correct it without help from an adult.

 

N is for Navidad, by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Joe Cepeda

This book covers Christmas customs that are prevalent in Mexico. The 26 letters of the alphabet are covered using Spanish words, with the story text in English. In here are the pinatas for Christmas, putting out your Christmas shoes with items stored in it (similar to Christmas stockings, but with zapatos).

Pinata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas, by Pat Mora

This book goes through the 12 Days of Christmas song, but adds in culturally relevant items to Christmas in Mexico. The illustrations by Magaly Morales are festive and life-like, as they go page by page through the traditions of holidays in Mexico.

‘Twas Nochebuena, by Roseanne Greenfield Thong

This book covers Mexican traditions for Christmas through a rework of the “Twas the Night Before Christmas” poem.  La Nochebuena is the Spanish word for “Christmas Eve”, meaning literally The Good Night.

Here are selected lines from this wonderfully worked poem:

Twas Nochebuena and all through the casa,

every creature was kneading tamale masa.

 

And every last person both chicas and chicos,

is needed to make the tamales taste ricos.

 

Small figures of wise men – Los Reyes – and sheep

and a tiny clay cama where baby can sleep.

 

Go get this great book now! Spanish teachers will love how the book teaches a total of 47 words related to the authentic Mexican holiday traditions surrounding the Christmas season. It has excellent illustrations of family inside the house, and community activities singing carols in the village.

The book ends with well wishes of “Feliz Navidad and to all a good night!”, reminescent of the Night Before Christmas poem from which it is based.

 

Mexican Christmas songs: Cielito Lindo (with letra / lyrics)

El Cielito Lindo is the most famous Christmas time song in Mexico. It was sung by Pedro Infante, and you will hear it all December long on the radio. This song is secular, it is a song to the beautiful sky, and to sing and don’t cry!

Here are the lyrics (called letra in Spanish), so you can follow along.

De la Sierra Morena, cielito lindo, vienen bajando
Un par de ojitos negros, cielito lindo, de contrabando
De la Sierra Morena, cielito lindo, vienen bajando
Un par de ojitos negros, cielito lindo, de contrabando
Ay, ay, ay, ay
Canta y no llores
Porque cantando se alegran, cielito lindo, los corazones
Ay, ay, ay, ay
Canta y no llores
Porque cantando se alegran, cielito lindo, los corazones
Ese lunar que tienes, cielito lindo, junto a la boca
No se lo des a nadie, cielito lindo, que a mí me toca
Ese lunar que tienes, cielito lindo, junto a la boca
No se lo des a nadie, cielito lindo, que a mí me toca
Ay, ay, ay, ay
Canta y no llores
Porque cantando se alegran, cielito lindo, los corazones
Ay, ay, ay, ay
Canta y no llores
Porque cantando se alegran, cielito lindo, los corazones
Siempre que te enamores, mira primero, mira primero
Donde pones los ojos, cielito lindo, no llores luego
Ay, ay, ay, ay
Canta y no llores
Porque cantando se alegran, cielito lindo, los corazones

Mexico Christmas songs: A La Nanita Nana

Another famous Mexican Christmas song is A La Nanita Nana. One interesting characteristic of this Mexican Christmas song is the natural wildlife found within it. There’s a ruisenor, a mockingbird. There’s a forest – a selva. It feels much more tropical in location than English-language Christmas songs, where normally the “weather out there is frightful”, “frosty”, a “winter wonderland”, in a “winter wonderland.”
There are two slight variations of the song which is designed as a lullaby to a baby. One version goes: “Mi Jesus tiene sueño, bendito sea.” while another version goes: “Mi nino tiene sueño, bendito sea.” -> translation: My Jesus/baby is sleeping, blessed be (him.)
You can pick the version that works for you – whether you want to sing the lullaby about your own child, or need a secular or religious version to the song.
The Cheetah Girls have also done a modern version of A La Nanita Nana that sings the lullaby to a baby girl. “Mi nina tiene sueno.”

Mexico Christmas songs: Feliz Navidad

José Feliciano sang this song in 1970, and Feliz Navidad is a hit song among English and Spanish speakers.
Here are the lyrics to Feliz Navidad (the letra):
Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
Próspero año y felicidad
Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
Próspero año y felicidad
I want to wish you a merry Christmas
I want to wish you a merry Christmas
I want to wish you a merry Christmas
From the bottom of my heart
I want to wish you a merry Christmas
I want to wish you a merry Christmas
I want to wish you a merry Christmas
From the bottom of my heart
Translation:
Feliz Navidad means Merry Christmas
Próspero año y felicidad means “prosperous year and happiness”

Mexico Christmas Facts:

 

 

If you would like to learn about Mexico through children’s books (for the remaining 11 months of the year), click here!

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