Whether or not you personally celebrate Christmas or the New Year, it is hard to miss these holiday traditions that fill cities and streets in December. While similar trends can be found across borders during these holidays, different communities bring their own unique twists and traditions. In celebration of this diversity, Revolution English surveyed some of the traditions for Christmas and New Years that can be found in Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States.
To celebrate both Christmas and the New Year, the most striking event that announces the arrival of these two days, is the community-wide firework shows that launch at midnight on both the 25th and 1st. Most households light their own fireworks, turning the entire country into a giant, beautiful (and sometimes dangerous) light show.
The traditional Guatemalan Christmas dinner starts at late, just before midnight on December 24th to celebrate the turning of the date to the 25th. The staple food for the night is the pache, which is essentially a tamale made with potato instead of corn.
In Guatemala, both the New Year on January 1st and the Mayan New Year are celebrated and there are also many traditions that mix the Mayan and Christian heritages of the country.
Some traditions that combine the two can be found in Antigua, Guatemala where on New Year’s Eve, several traditional dances and performances are put on including the Mayan dance called Baile de ‘Moros y Cristianos.’ Other traditional dances around this time of year include Los Cabezones, “the headed ones”, where performers wear giant heads resembling people and animals.
Mexico is composed of 32 states and each state brings its own set of traditions to the Christmas holiday. In Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, on December 23, for more than 100 years, residents have celebrated an annual tradition called the noche de rabanos (Night of Radishes). Artists fill the Oaxaca City Zocalo (town square) with sculptures — all made from radishes. The radish art ranges from traditional nativity and religious scenes and beautiful resemblances of nature and animals to fun scenes of the artists’ choosing.
Along with fireworks, Mexico also has its own traditions for the New Year. One tradition, which originates in Spain, is to eat 12 grapes at midnight to have good luck each month of the following year. Another tradition is to “walk a suitcase’. For those who want to travel more, after midnight, they can take an empty suitcase for a ‘walk’ in the home or outside.
Like Mexico, the US brings a range of traditions to the holiday season. Blending together the diverse roots that the country has, New Years and Christmas traditions reflect this diversity. Celebrating the new year with popping champagne has French roots, kissing at midnight can be traced to German celebrations, and the famous New York Time New Year’s ball drop is an event that started in the 1800s at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hannauka, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy New Year– whatever you celebrate and however you celebrate, your friends at Revolution English wish you all the best in the new year to come.