Guide to New Year's Eve in Mexico: Customs, Festivals, and Events

Fireworks in Los Cabos

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If you're planning to ring in the new year in Mexico, there are many options for things to do. In tourist areas, hotels, and resorts organize special festivities. In less touristy towns, you will also find restaurants offering special New Year's Eve suppers and dance parties for locals and visitors alike.

You can partake in one of these options, or just head to the town square to enjoy the celebrations in the street, which will most likely include firecrackers, fireworks, and sparklers along with friendly cheering and throwing of confetti. At midnight, there is a lot of noise, and everyone shouts: "¡Feliz año nuevo!" People embrace and make noise and set off more firecrackers.

Most Mexicans celebrate New Year's Eve by having a late-night dinner with their families. Those who want to party will generally go out afterward. The largest public celebration is in Mexico City, where there is a huge street festival on the last night of the year. The festivities center around the city's huge main square, the Zócalo, as well as the monument known as the Angel de la Independencia. 


There are some particular beliefs and traditions (and some superstitions) surrounding the new year in Mexico. One tradition that is practiced in Mexico as well as in some other countries in Latin America involves making a type of scarecrow or dummy out of old clothes stuffed with newspaper or other material. You may find them sitting on street corners or rooftops on the last few days of the year.

These figures represent "el año viejo" (the old year) and are burned at midnight along with some firecrackers, to signify the end of the old year and leaving the failures and regrets of the past behind in order to live better in the year to come.

Some other customs practiced in Mexico on New Year's Eve are thought to bring good fortune and particular experiences that one would like to have in the coming year. Here are a few of the most popular: 

  • Eat twelve grapes as the clock strikes midnight on the 31st, and as you eat each grape make a wish for the new year.
  • Want to have good luck in love in the coming year? Wear red underwear on New Year's Eve. For good luck with money, wear yellow.
  • Are you hoping to travel in the New Year? Get out your luggage and take it for a walk around the block.
  • Just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, open the front door to your home and symbolically sweep out the old. At midnight, toss 12 coins on the ground and sweep them into the house to bring prosperity and financial success.

Traditional Foods

Bacalao, dried salted codfish, is a New Year's staple in Mexico. The most common way of preparing it is in a dish called Bacalao a la Vizcaino, which originally comes from Spain. It contains tomatoes, olives, and capers. Lentils are also eaten as they are thought to bring abundance and prosperity for the coming year. Toasts are made with sparkling cider, and a hot fruit punch known as ponche is also popular, in fact, most of the traditional Mexican Christmas foods are also good choices for New Year's Eve

In Oaxaca, there is a tradition of eating crispy fritters called buñuelos, which are drizzled with a sweet syrup and served on a ceramic dish. After eating the sweet treat, people make a wish and break the dish by smashing it on the floor or a wall. This represents a breaking with the past.

This custom may hearken back to an Aztec tradition surrounding Atemoztli, the sixteenth month of the Aztec calendar, and a special festival in which plates, pots, and other dishes were broken as a way to break with the past and make way for new things to come.


January 1st is a national holiday. Banks, government offices, and some stores are closed. This is usually a quiet day, as folks recuperate from the partying of the previous night. Archaeological sites, museums, and other tourist attractions are open.

The celebrations aren't over yet! January 6 is Kings Day when Mexican children receive gifts brought by the three Kings (the Magi). Read more about festivals and events in Mexico in January.