World ? Caribbean & Central America ? Mexico

Mexico: The Best Festivals and Celebrations

Festival de Nuestra SeɁora de Guadalupe: This annual celebration leads up to Dȷa de Nuestra SeɁora de Guadalupe, celebrated throughout Mexico on December 12. The Virgin of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico, and is also identified with the Aztec earth goddess and mother of humankind. The basilica just outside of Mexico City features the largest celebration and the most impressive crowd of impassioned believers, but perhaps the best place to view the festivities is in Puerto Vallarta, where they continue around the clock for 12 days. It is a visual delight.

Days of the Dead: People across the country celebrate Los Días de los Muertos (Oct 31-Nov 2); they erect altars for the dead, with marigolds (the flower of the dead) and offerings of food and drink. The most popular celebrations happen in the villages around Pȥtzcuaro and in the valley of Oaxaca. People head out to the cemetery for all-night vigils and sing and pray for the souls of the dearly departed. During the day, markets sell crafts and special items made just for the festival.

Carnaval: Mexico has two particularly notable celebrations. Festivities in Veracruz fill the 3 days before Ash Wednesday, with fabulous floats, dancing in the plaza, and live entertainment. Mazatlȥn's party lasts a full week before Lent, with parades, strolling musicians, and crowds of revelers along the entire length of the malecɃn.

Holy Week: The silver city of Taxco hosts one of the most compelling Holy Week commemorations in the country, beginning the Friday before Palm Sunday with nightly processions (and several during the day). On the evening of Holy Thursday, villagers carrying saints from the surrounding area march ahead of hooded members of a society of self-flagellating penitents. On the Saturday morning before Easter, the Plaza Borda fills for the Procession of Three Falls, which reenacts the three times Christ stumbled and fell while carrying the cross. In San Miguel de Allende, Pȥtzcuaro and surrounding communities, and Oaxaca, the solemn weeklong commemoration involves nightly candlelit processions through the streets and other religious events.

La Fiesta de los Locos: In San Miguel de Allende, a town known for celebrations, this one is the most fun for visitors. Young and old alike dress in grotesque costumes and parade around the center of town, or in dressed-up carts, to musical accompaniment. Keep an eye open for practical jokes.

Guelaguetza: On the last 2 Mondays in July, Oaxaca puts on a big show. Dance groups from communities across the state perform in the amphitheater on the hillside above the city.

"Night of the Radishes": Unique in the country, December 23 in Oaxaca is when the OaxaqueɁos build fantastic sculptures out of radishes flowers, and dried cornhusks. They go on display on the zɃcalo. On December 24, each Oaxacan church organizes a procession with music, floats, and crowds bearing candles.

"Gourmet Festival": This festival of fine dining held in Puerto Vallarta brings together some of the world's finest chefs creating magical menus in the town's top restaurants. Added attractions include a gourmet food expo, cooking classes, tequila and wine tastings, and an array of special events and parties. Dates vary, but the festival generally takes place for 10 days in mid-November. www.festivalgourmet.com.

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