My First Christmas Holiday in Oaxaca, Mexico

by | Feb 14, 2022 | Mexico | 1 comment

A Different Christmas Holiday in Oaxaca: A Holiday Unlike Any Other

This 2020 Christmas season was unlike any other. It was the COVID-19 holiday and my first Christmas Holiday in Oaxaca, away from my native country, friends, and family.

Noche buenas by Gwen Hyatt
Noche buenas by Gwen Hyatt

A double dose of yearning for and missing the familiar holiday traditions.

There was no stringing of holiday lights or tree trimming with favorite family ornaments.

No holiday parties with friends, baking traditional family holiday rolls, cooking Christmas Eve dinner, or Christmas morning brunch, or sharing gifts with family. Sigh…

Although most holiday celebrations were canceled in Oaxaca, Mexico, because of COVID-19, there were still abundant signs of festive and traditional holiday experiences that replaced those I was missing so dearly.

Noche buenas (poinsettias) filled the mercados, patios, and windowsills in creative displays of red and green.


Nacimientos (nativity scenes) with large, life-size figures that can fill an entire wall were on abundant display.

Nacimiento made of ceramic clay by Gwen Hyatt
Nacimiento made of ceramic clay by Gwen Hyatt

The figures are most often made of clay, although I stumbled upon some elaborate nacimientos made from tin, dried flowers, straw, metal, and an assortment of other materials.

Officially, the Christmas season in Oaxaca begins December 16th with the calendar of the Virgin de Soledad (Oaxaca’s patron saint), and the day is filled with indigenous cultural and religious ceremonies and parades. Dec. 16th also marks the beginning of the nine days of posadas. Posada is Spanish for inn or lodging and represents the part of the Christmas story when Mary and Joseph were looking for somewhere to stay.

Oaxaca is famous for festivals and the traditional La Noche de Rábanos (Radish Night) is unique, combining folk art and agriculture. All the folk art is made from radishes. Celebrated December 23rd on the Zócalo for more than a century, it is a focal point of Christmas celebrations in Oaxaca. These annual activities too were canceled.

Christmas Eve: Noche Buena

Christmas eve is known as Noche Buena. Families often take part in the final Posada and celebrate a holiday meal together.

Delicious holiday tamales Photo by Gwen Hyatt
Delicious holiday tamales Photo by Gwen Hyatt

Popular dishes for the main Christmas meal include pozole, a thick soup made with hominy, chicken or pork and chilies, roast turkey, roast pork, tamales, bacalao (salt cod), romeritos. a green vegetable that is cooked in a mole sauce with potatoes and shrimps, and salads.

For dessert, it’s bunuelos: fried pastries sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon or hot sugar syrup. Ponche, a favorite warm Christmas punch made with fruit, and Rompope, a drink like an eggnog often served with rum, is popular.

To celebrate this holiday, we assembled holiday bags with food to deliver on Christmas eve to the homeless that dot the parks and sidewalks.

A new tradition to give back to the people that have been warm and welcoming. The evening culminated with a warm bowl of pazole, tamales salsa verde and ponche.

Saludes to the coming year.

If you like to know more about celebrating a Christmas holiday in Oaxaca or living in Oaxaca, make sure to follow my blog here on TCI. Leave a comment below, and I am happy to answer your questions about Oaxaca.

by: Gwen Hyatt