December and January are popular months to visit Mexico, and with good reason: there's lots going on, and you'll get to witness some special traditional celebrations. These tend to be the coolest months of the year, so no matter your destination, you should bring a sweater just in case, and maybe even a jacket if you're heading to high altitude spots. December has plenty of festivals and events to attend.
The feast day of Mexico's patron saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe, falls on the 12th and Christmas celebrations get underway on the 16th with the posadas. This is high season for many destinations, and particularly the last couple of weeks of December can be very crowded, so be sure to book in advance. Here's a listing of some of the most important festivals and events in Mexico this December:
Guadalajara International Book Fair
Guadalajara, Jalisco, November 25 to December 3
Over 1500 editorial houses from 39 countries gather at the Expo Guadalajara for the largest Spanish-language book festival in the world, now in its 31st year. This year, the spotlight is on Madrid as the festival's guest of honor.
Website: Guadalajara International Book Fair
Riviera Maya Jazz Festival
Playa del Carmen, November 30 to December 2
Playa del Carmen will host major national and international jazz musicians who will perform under the stars, at the Mamitas Beach Club.
This year's lineup includes Sheila E, Phil Perry, Zappa Plays Zappa, and Gino Vanelli.
Website: Riviera Maya Jazz Festival
Acapulco, Guerrero, December 8 to 10
Music lovers won’t want to miss this three-day festival held in the Hotel Pierre Mundo Imperial. Festival goers and musicians come from all over the world for this beachfront festival.
Tropico is about more than just music: art displays, fashion events, and pool parties with tropical cocktails and delicious food are also part of the celebration.
Mexico City Christmas Festivities
Mexico City, December 3 to January 6
The Mexico City government installs an ice skating rink in the Mexico City Zocalo, that is free for all (expect long line-ups, though!). Ice skates are loaned on site, without charge. The rink usually opens the first week of December, and remains open through January 6, when Christmas festivities come to an end with the celebration of King's Day.
Sabor a Cabo Food & Wine Festival
Los Cabos, December 9
Some of the world's finest chefs will gather for the annual Sabor a Cabo food and wine festival in Los Cabos. The main event will be held in the Puerto Los Cabos sculpture garden and is expected to draw over 2000 attendees. Cabo's best local chefs will prepare their signature dishes for this important culinary event.
Website: Sabor a Cabo
Fiesta of the Virgin of Guadalupe
Throughout Mexico, but particularly in Mexico City, December 12
The feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe commemorates the traditional account of her first appearances to Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac near Mexico City in 1531.
The main celebrations take place in Mexico City, where thousands of pilgrims converge on the Basilica de Guadalupe to pay tribute to Mexico's patron saint. The square in front of the Basilica is a stage for singing, dancing, and celebration. Most towns in Mexico have a church or shrine dedicated to this manifestation of the Virgin Mary, and parents dress their children in traditional clothing and take them to be blessed on this day (and for a photo opportunity).
Feria de la Posada y Piñata (Posada and Piñata Fair)
Acolman de Nezahualcoyotl, Estado de Mexico, December 16 to 20
The Mexican Christmas traditions of piñatas and posadas are celebrated in an annual celebration near Mexico City, in the town of Acolman (near Teotihuacan). There are workshops in piñata-making offered to attendees, as well as a host of other activities.
Learn about the history and meaning of the piñata.
December 16 to 24
Every night from the 16th to the 24th of December, there are street processions that culminate in house parties known as posadas, in which Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem is remembered.
Read more: Posadas
Noche de los Rábanos (Radish Night)
Oaxaca, Oaxaca, December 23
The Oaxaca Zocalo is filled with stalls during this popular event in which local craftspeople carve and assemble radishes into all different types of figures, from flowers and animals to saints and nativity scenes.
The last posada takes place on Christmas Eve, Nochebuena, and families have a late-night supper. In cities there are calendas, festive processions, and other events.
Año Nuevo (New Year's Eve)
Celebrations vary from raucous to sedate, but there are many superstitions and beliefs about what to do to ensure good fortune for the coming year, including what color underwear you should have on when the clock strikes twelve. Learn more about Mexican New Year's Eve traditions.
See more Mexico events throughout the year.