Isla Mujeres Mystery ~ Lynda L. Lock

Celebration time, come on, come celebrate with me ….

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Día de la Independencia
Día de la Independencia in Mexico is celebrated annually on September 16th.   

It is one of our favourite times of year on the island.  This week is traditionally the start of the festivities leading up to the big finale of this important national holidayfeaturing lots of fireworks, flags, banners, music, dancing and tasty food washed down with icy cold beer or shots of tequila.  

 But this week’s blog is also about the other celebrations that happen throughout the year.  Many of our Mexican friends don’t take the traditional two or three week holiday that we northerners are accustomed to, traveling someplace warm and exotic.  Heck, they already live in that place; warm and exotic.   Why go anywhere else?  

Like most countries there are several different types of holidays in Mexico: statutory (called feriados or días de asueto), civic, religious or family fiestas. 

New Year, Año Nuevo
To start the year off with a bang, (pun intended) the beginning of the New Year, Año Nuevo is an all-night fiesta in centro with fireworks and a twelve-piece band rocking the downtown area until dawn.  
As the party winds down many revelers will make their way to Punta Sur at the southern end Isla Mujeres.  This is the first place in all of Mexico for the first rays of sunlight to strike land and celebrants in their party clothes arrive by motos or golf carts or private vehicles to toast the New Year.  Government, banks, schools, and some stores are closed on January 1st, which is probably a really good thing after an all-night party.

The next big national celebration, Carnaval, takes place in late February or early March, depending on the date set by the church calendar.  
It is a full five days of parades, dance contests, and silly behaviour until the beginning of Lent on the following Wednesday.  
This is the time of year that people really let loose.  
It is not a statutory holiday, but it is one of the best experiences in Mexico.
President Benito Juárez

By the time the third Monday in March rolls around there is a quieter observance of the birthday of President Benito Juárez, who was born March 21, 1806.  
The day is usually marked with speeches and a laying of a floral wreath at his statue at the junction of the roads behind the naval base, and the end of the airport.  
It is a statutory holiday so banks, schools and some stores will be closed.

Day of the Flowery Cross

On the 1st of May is the Día del Trabajo or Mexico’s Labor Day commemorating the union movements Mexican workers.  While on May 3rd the Day of the Flowery Cross is a separate observance just for construction workers.  

Drive around the island and you will see a variety of decorated crosses adorning the rooftop of buildings under construction.  The workers are usually treated to a hot lunch, and a half-day of work. 

Día de la Independencia

And forget your misconceptions about Cinco de Mayo, as we mentioned earlier, September 16this the real Día de la Independencia commemorating the beginning of its War of Independence, led by the famous Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in 1810.  If you are in Mexico on September 15th sure to make your way into centro for the ‘Cry of Independence’ scheduled for eleven in the evening, followed by fireworks, and another all-night fiesta.  ¡Viva México!

Flowers and food for Día de los Muertos
Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead (People) begins on October 31st and includes November 1st, the Day of the Dead for children and November 2nd the Day of the Dead for adults.  It is a 3000 year-old tradition of remembering relatives and friends who have passed away.  The historic tradition was integrated into the Catholic Church rituals in the mid 1500’s.  Primarily a private family remembrance the beautiful altars and offerings have in recent years attracted a huge number of visitors to cities such as San Miquel de Allende, and the City of Mexico.  Here on Isla Mujeres it is a very low key celebration.

Día de la Revolución

November 20thDía de la Revolución commemorating the start of the Mexican Revolution by Francisco I. Madero in 1910. Observance of this statutory holiday is the third Monday of November.  Most of the local school children participate in a parade featuring very young mustachioed-revolutionaries toting toy guns and crossed banderillos of fake bullets.  The kids are a delight to see, so serious and desperately trying to keep in step for an interminably long parade. 
One of the numerous celebrations
Celebrated chiefly in Mexico and the southwestern United States, Las Posadas begins on December 16th and ends on December 24th.   The nine day-religious holiday is a time for honouring the pilgrimage of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus to Bethlehem.  In Mexico, the Aztec winter solstice festival had traditionally been observed from December 7th to December 26th marking the sun god Huitzilopochtli’s birthday.  

Getting ready for the next New Year’s Eve fiesta
The parallel in time between this Aztec commemoration and the birth of the Christ lent itself to an almost seamless merging of the traditions in 1586.
Traditionally, Navidad or Christmas is observed on December 25th as a secular and a religious holiday.  People attend Mass, relax, catch up with family and friends, and eat leftovers (recalentado) from Christmas Eve’s Noche Buena dinner.  

And there are more, lots more celebrations!  Come join the fun!

¡Viva México! Long live Mexico! 
Hasta Pronto!
Lynda & Lawrie

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