What Food does Mexico Eat on Christmas?

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What Food does Mexico Eat on Christmas?

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Christmas in Mexico is a vibrant and festive time filled with unique traditions and customs, including a diverse array of delicious foods that are savored during the holiday season. The celebration of Christmas in Mexico blends indigenous Mexican culture with Spanish Catholic influences, resulting in a festive period that starts from December 12th (the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe) and continues until January 6th (Three Kings Day). Food plays a central role in these celebrations, with specific dishes and treats that are eagerly anticipated each year. Here’s an overview of the traditional foods enjoyed in Mexico during Christmas.


Tamales are perhaps the most iconic Christmas food in Mexico. Made from masa (a dough made from nixtamalized corn), filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, or chilies, and wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves, tamales are a labor of love often prepared in large quantities for family and friends. The making of tamales is a communal activity known as a “tamalada,” where family members gather to prepare them for Christmas Eve, known as “Noche Buena.”

Bacalao a la Vizcaína (Biscayan Cod)

This dish is a traditional Christmas Eve meal in many Mexican households. Bacalao a la Vizcaína is made with salted cod fish that has been soaked overnight to remove some of the saltiness, then cooked with tomatoes, onions, olives, capers, and sometimes potatoes and peppers. The dish reflects the Spanish influence on Mexican cuisine and is both hearty and flavorful.


Traditional mexican romeritos with mole sauce and shrimp on a white background

Romeritos are a traditional Mexican dish served during Christmas made from a wild plant resembling rosemary (though not related) mixed with potatoes, shrimp cakes, and mole sauce. This dish is a holiday staple, particularly in Mexico City and surrounding areas, combining pre-Hispanic and Spanish influences.


While not exclusive to Christmas and enjoyed year-round, pozole is a popular choice during the holiday festivities. This hearty soup is made from hominy corn with plenty of herbs and spices, and it can be prepared in white, green, or red varieties to represent the colors of the Mexican flag. Chicken, pork, or vegetarian options are available, and it’s garnished with radish, onion, lettuce, lime, and chili.


A sweet treat enjoyed during the Christmas season, buñuelos are fried dough pastries sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon or drizzled with syrup. They are often served alongside hot chocolate or “ponche,” a warm, fruit-laden punch that is another Christmas staple.

Ponche Navideño

Ponche Navideño is a traditional Christmas punch made from fruits like guava, apples, pears, oranges, and prunes, often with sugar cane, cinnamon, and hibiscus flower. It’s typically served hot and can be spiked with a splash of rum or brandy for adults. The drink is especially popular during the “Posadas,” a reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter that occurs in the days leading up to Christmas.

These dishes are just a few examples of the rich culinary traditions that make Christmas in Mexico a deeply flavorful and communal celebration. The holiday season is a time for gathering with loved ones, and these foods are made with a lot of care and shared joyously among family and friends, reflecting the spirit of Mexican hospitality and warmth.

Rosca de Reyes

While technically associated with Epiphany on January 6th, the Rosca de Reyes is an integral part of the extended Christmas festivities in Mexico. This wreath-shaped bread is adorned with candied fruits and hides a small figurine of Baby Jesus inside. Whoever finds the figurine in their slice is tasked with hosting a party on February 2nd, Día de la Candelaria, serving tamales and atole to the guests. The Rosca de Reyes is a symbol of the holiday’s religious roots and provides a sweet conclusion to the Christmas season.


Atole is a traditional hot beverage made from masa (corn dough), water, and unrefined cane sugar, flavored with cinnamon and vanilla or chocolate. This thick, comforting drink is often served alongside tamales or enjoyed on its own during the cold December nights. Its warmth and energy make it a perfect accompaniment to the late-night celebrations and Posadas.


Menudo, a hearty soup made from beef stomach (tripe) in a clear broth with red chili pepper base, is another holiday favorite, especially after the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. It’s believed to be an excellent cure for hangovers, making it a popular choice for the early hours of Christmas Day. Menudo is typically served with lime, chopped onions, and oregano to enhance its flavors.

Turkey (Pavo)

Christmas turkey. Traditional festive food for Christmas or Thanksgiving

Turkey, or “pavo,” has become increasingly popular in Mexican Christmas feasts, influenced by American traditions. It’s often prepared with a variety of rich marinades and stuffing, featuring a blend of traditional Mexican spices and ingredients such as dried fruits, nuts, and chili peppers. The result is a festive centerpiece that combines the flavors of Mexico with the iconic Christmas turkey.

Ensalada de Noche Buena

Ensalada de Noche Buena is a colorful Christmas Eve salad that features a mixture of fruits, vegetables, and nuts, including beets, apples, oranges, pineapples, carrots, and pecans, dressed with a light cream or citrus dressing. This salad adds a refreshing and healthy balance to the holiday table, showcasing the vibrant produce available in Mexico during the winter season.

The Christmas season in Mexico is a time when culinary traditions shine, bringing families and communities together in celebration. Each dish is steeped in history and cultural significance, contributing to the rich tapestry of Mexican heritage. The flavors of Christmas in Mexico are a testament to the country’s diverse culinary landscape, blending indigenous, Spanish, and other influences into a unique festive cuisine that is enjoyed by people of all ages. Whether savoring a sweet piece of Rosca de Reyes or gathering around a steaming pot of pozole, the holiday foods of Mexico are a cherished part of the season’s festivities, full of flavor, tradition, and the warmth of shared experiences.

FAQ on Christmas Foods in Mexico

What is the most traditional Christmas dish in Mexico?

The most traditional Christmas dish in Mexico is arguably tamales. They are a labor-intensive food that embodies the spirit of communal cooking and celebration. Tamales are especially popular during Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) and are enjoyed throughout the holiday season.

Why is Bacalao a la Vizcaína a Christmas tradition in Mexico?

Bacalao a la Vizcaína, or Biscayan cod, is a Christmas tradition in Mexico due to the influence of Spanish cuisine. The dish, which is made with salted cod, tomatoes, onions, olives, and capers, is thought to have been brought to Mexico by Spanish settlers. Its preparation and consumption during Christmas is a nod to Mexico’s colonial history and its culinary fusion.

Can vegetarians enjoy traditional Mexican Christmas foods?

Yes, vegetarians can enjoy traditional Mexican Christmas foods with some modifications. Dishes like tamales can be made with vegetarian fillings such as cheese, beans, or vegetables. Romeritos, traditionally served with shrimp cakes, can be adapted by omitting the shrimp. Additionally, pozole can be made in a vegetarian version using mushrooms or other vegetables instead of meat.

What makes Mexican hot chocolate different from other hot chocolates?

Mexican hot chocolate is distinct for its use of spices like cinnamon and sometimes chili peppers, which add warmth and depth to the flavor. It is traditionally made with Mexican chocolate tablets, which are a mix of cacao, sugar, and cinnamon, melted into milk or water. The result is a richer, more aromatic beverage that pairs perfectly with sweet treats like buñuelos.

How do families decide who makes the tamales for Christmas?

The preparation of tamales for Christmas is often a family affair, with the task typically falling to the matriarchs of the family or being shared among various family members. The decision may be based on tradition, with the role passed down through generations, or it may be a collaborative effort where everyone pitches in. Making tamales is seen as a communal activity that brings families together during the holiday season.

What is the significance of finding the baby Jesus figurine in the Rosca de Reyes?

Finding the baby Jesus figurine in the Rosca de Reyes cake is significant because it symbolizes the hiding of Jesus from King Herod’s decree in the biblical story. The person who finds the figurine is considered blessed and is traditionally responsible for hosting a celebration on February 2nd (Día de la Candelaria), providing tamales and atole for the guests. This tradition fosters a sense of community and continuation of the festive spirit beyond Christmas.

Are Christmas foods in Mexico the same across the country?

While there are common dishes enjoyed across Mexico during Christmas, regional variations exist due to the country’s diverse culinary landscape. Ingredients and traditions vary by region, reflecting the local culture, climate, and history. For example, seafood dishes may be more prominent in coastal areas, while inland regions might favor dishes based on corn and indigenous ingredients.

These FAQs highlight the rich culinary traditions of Christmas in Mexico, showcasing the diversity and cultural significance of the holiday’s foods. Whether through the communal preparation of tamales or the symbolic cutting of the Rosca de Reyes, these traditions bring families and communities together, creating memories and flavors that are cherished year after year.


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