Mexico is the land of the fiesta and the locals will find any reason to party. Whether they're celebrating independence, the saints or the dead, you can expect vibrant colours, lively music and a whole lot of dancing. One to keep an eye out for is the Autumn Equinox, when crowds gather at Chichen Itza to witness the sunlight and shadows play tricks on this ancient relic. During the autumn (and spring) equinox, the sun moves across Chichen Itza, illuminating parts of the temple to reveal the moving body of a snake. Not seen on any other days, this natural spectacle draws thousands of pilgrims.
- Dia de los Muertos
The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday held to remember friends and family members who have passed and to celebrate their lives. Across 1–2 November, people across the country attend parties and parades, dressed in costumes and striking skeleton make up. They also set up altars as shrines for their deceased loved ones.
Dia de los Muertos has been celebrated since the time of the pre-Hispanic indigenous civilisations, who saw death as another natural part of life. They believed that on Dia de los Muertos the dead temporarily returned to Earth.
- Dia de la Independencia
Mexicans celebrate their independence from the Spanish on September 16. It marks the date when Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Roman Catholic priest, first called for independence in the town of Dolores, rather than the date of independence itself. Higaldo went on to be both unsuccessful and beheaded, but he did get the ball rolling. On September 15 every year the president of Mexico rings the same bell Higaldo rang and gives a speech that supposedly echoes the priest’s words, though nobody actually wrote down what was originally said.
- Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo – 5 May – is often thought to be Mexico’s Independence Day and is celebrated more in the US than in Mexico, with beer sales apparently rivalling those of Superbowl. The date actually marks the Battle of Puebla, when the Mexican army defeated the French in 1862 despite being severely outnumbered. It’s not a national holiday, but schools do close across the country and it’s an official holiday in the state of Puebla, where the battle took place. The locals celebrate with parades, feasts and a re-enactment of the battle.
- Festival de Mexico
Held in Mexico City every year, the Festival de Mexico sees Mexican and international acts performing music, dance and opera in venues all over the city.
- Fiesta de Santa Cecilia
Santa Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians and every year, on 22 November, mariachis and musicians flock to the streets of Mexico City to pay homage to Cecilia with an open-air party and many tribute concerts. The action takes place at Plaza Garibaldi, which was originally called Plaza Santa Cecilia, but was renamed after the Mexican Revolution. It’s known as the home of mariachi music and it’s a full house come the Fiesta de Santa Cecilia.