Like in many countries around the world, Christmas is one of the main celebrations in Mexico and, of course, food is one of its main elements. With some traditional dishes that date back to pre-Hispanic times and others that we’ve inherited from different traditions, Mexican Christmas food is a unique delicacy everybody should try at least once in their lifetime.
Christmas in Mexico isn’t a one-day celebration; it takes days of parties and meal prepping that are festivities itself. For instance, we have the traditional posadas, nine days of celebration where people share some food, drinks, and break the traditional piñata to honor Mary’s nine months of pregnancy and their pilgrimage before Jesus’ birth. Also, during Christmas eve, dinner is often taken quite late almost hitting midnight, so Christmas is more of a big party rather than just a dinner gathering.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the feast of delicacies that make of every Mexican Christmas celebration a unique party like no other in the world.
This Christmas delicacy, that’s also traditional during Easter, was brought by the Spaniards to Mexico during the conquest and became a traditional dish in the state of Veracruz, the main contact port between Europe and Mexico. Made with dehydrated salted cod, this dish takes days to prepare since the cod has to be hydrated and desalted. Once the fish is ready, it’s cooked with sauteed tomato, onion, and garlic. The stew is complemented with green olives, almonds, potatoes, and chiles güeros.
Romeritos, which literally translates to ‘little rosemary,’ is of the main dishes around Mexican Christmas parties that originated in the central region of the country. Romeritos are some small green leaves that have been essential foods in the region since pre-Hispanic times. Although they look like rosemary, they’re a different type of plant that has a more similar taste to spinach. They are commonly cooked with traditional mole and served with dried shrimps and potatoes.
Not precisely unique to Christmas, there’s no Mexican celebration without tamales. These come in different flavors and types of preparation, so what variety of tamales are served will depend on the region. Tamales might be one of the most antique delicacies in the country going back as far as 8,000 BC. These corn cakes were essential meals for the Olmecs and Toltecs who used to feed their military. Now they are central to every Mexican celebration. They’re all prepared with corn dough and filled with different ingredients like chicken, sauce, vegetables, or even fruit and sugar. They’re wrapped with corn leaves, or in some regions with banana leaves and steamed in a special pot.
Like tamales, pozole is one of those dishes that are common in every Mexican celebration, including Independence Day. This stew also has its variations around the country with pozoles of different colors and fillings. Also, this traditional dish comes from pre-Hispanic times, and originally it was only prepared for religious rituals and offerings; perhaps that’s why it was often made with human flesh. Today, thankfully, this delicious stew is made of chicken or pork and is prepared with white corn, lettuce, radish, oregano, and some chili powder. The broth can be white, green, or red according to the region.
Mexican Christmas takes a lot from different cultures, and like many countries, stuffed turkey has become one of the most common and traditional dishes around the celebration. Either made of regular turkey or guajolote (an endemic type of turkey), this dish is generally stuffed with ground beef or pork and some vegetables. Some houses will prepare a spicy sauce as gravy to give it a traditional Mexican flavor.
Also, not a dish that originated in Mexico, but that has now become classic during Mexican Christmas celebrations, pork loin is served in many households. The preparation will vary according to the family preferences but it’s often found either made with a bittersweet sauce made with orange or with a traditional Mexican adobo made with different peppers like guajillo, morita, arbol.
Let’s move on to dessert. Although it’s common to find regular Christmas cakes and cookies, there are still some households around Mexico that will prepare buñuelos, a sweet delicacy that is made of yeasted dough and accompanied with a unique syrup made of anise, brown sugar, guava, and cinnamon. This dessert is also common during the posadas, the nine-day celebrations before Christmas where families honor the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph before the birth of Jesus.
The moment the weather turns cold, Mexicans will start preparing this delicious sweet drink to keep themselves warm. This winter fruit punch is prepared by simmering special fruits like apples, tejocotes, guavas, prunes, lime, and tamarind, as well as sugar and sugar cane. Ponche is also a traditional beverage during the posadas and some festive adults will even add a bit of tequila, rum, brandy, or other spirited beverages to spice things up.
Champurrado or Atole
Last but not least, here are other traditional warm beverages for the winter season, although these are also quite common during the entire year. Champurrado and atole are very thick beverages made with corn that are commonly drunk for breakfast. These drinks also date back to pre-Hispanic times and are made with corn dough or flour and mixed with water or milk and many other sweet ingredients like sugar, cinnamon, fruits, or chocolate.
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