12 Mexican New Year’s Traditions, Food & Superstitions

Updated

New Year’s Eve in Mexico is a big deal. Along with Day of the Dead, it’s one of the biggest festivities all year. 

New Year’s Eve in Mexico is a time to enjoy the company of friends and family, and take part in local celebrations and events.

Mexico has many unique New Year’s traditions, including activities, foods, and ancient superstitions. Some of those traditions are thought to create good fortune in the coming year, while others are just for fun. 

Whether you’re visiting Mexico to ring in the new year, or New Year’s Eve in Mexico is on your travel bucket list, below are some ways you can ring in the New Year in Mexico. 

1. El Año Viejo Dummies

If you’re in Mexico for a few days before New Year’s Eve, you may notice stuffed scarecrows and dummies sitting on roofs and street corners.

These figures represent the old year, “el año viejo.” They’re made of old clothes and stuffed with newspaper scraps or other materials. 

At midnight, it’s traditional to burn the scarecrows along with some New Year’s Eve fireworks. Doing so represents letting go of the old and bringing in better fortune for the new year to come. 

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2. Sweep Out the Old

Another tradition that represents an “out with the old, in with the new” theme is literally sweeping out the old. 

Just before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, some households in Mexico open the door and symbolically “sweep out the old year.” 

At 12:00 AM, it’s traditional to place 12 coins on the ground outside the door. To bring good fortune and financial success into the new year, all you have to do is sweep the coins into the house.

3. Twelve Grapes

If you’re in Mexico for New Year’s Eve, make sure to pick up some grapes and think up 12 wishes. That way, you can participate in one of the most popular and well-known Hispanic New Year’s traditions. 

According to local tradition and superstition, eating 12 grapes⁠—one for each of 12 wishes⁠—will help bring you good luck in the new year. 

When the clock strikes midnight, eat 12 grapes within the minute, making one wish for each grape you consume. 

This tradition developed from a Spanish ritual, but it’s popular in modern-day Mexico, too. 

4. Lentils

If you want to bring in prosperity and good fortune with the food you eat on New Year’s Eve, lentils are a good choice. 

Many households in Mexico serve lentils as part of their New Year’s Eve dinner, as they’re thought to represent abundance. 

Some people even leave lentils outside the home or carry a handful of lentils in their pocket or purse to bring an extra serving of good luck. 

5. Make a Toast

Some New Year’s traditions and superstitions in Mexico are nearly identical to those in other countries. For example, it’s traditional to hold up a glass and make a toast just before the clock strikes twelve. 

In Mexico, a New Year’s toast is traditionally made with sparkling cider. A hot fruit punch known as ponche is another popular choice. 

In the Mexican version of the New Year’s toast, it’s also considered good luck to place a gold ring in your glass beforehand. 

6. Buñuelos

In some parts of Mexico⁠—such as Oaxaca⁠—there’s a unique tradition involving a sweet treat called buñuelos.

Buñuelos are a kind of crispy fritter, which is drizzled with sweet syrup and served on a traditional ceramic dish. 

After eating the treat, the next step is making a wish and smashing the ceramic dish against a wall or the floor. Breaking the ceramic dish symbolizes breaking your connection with the past, and it’s thought to help your wish for the new year come true. 

7. Colorful Underwear

According to one Mexican New Year’s superstition, you can influence your upcoming year by wearing a different color of underwear. 

If your goal for the new year is to find true love, you’ll want to wear a red pair. If you’re more interested in money or personal success, you’ll want to choose a yellow pair instead. 

If you already have all the love, money, and success you could ever want, you could choose a white pair of underwear to attract peace in the new year. Or, you could wear black to conjure a year full of dignity. Green underwear represents good health, and orange represents wisdom.

Some say you can also light-colored candles to get the same effect if you don’t happen to have a rainbow in your underwear drawer. 

8. Bacalao a la Vizcaino

In Mexico, dinner usually happens late at night. Luch is generally the largest meal of the day, while dinner is more of a late-night snack. 

On New Year’s Eve, you might find yourself waiting even longer to eat dinner. Locals often don’t sit down to their meal until around 11:00 PM. Luckily, you can stave off hunger pangs with snacks like salted dried codfish. 

Salted and dried codfish, or bacalao, is a traditional New Year’s Eve food in Mexico. One of the most popular dishes for the occasion is called Bacalao a la Vizcaino. 

Bacalao a la Vizcaino typically contains olives and capers, as well as tomatoes, in addition to the dried codfish. 

9. Fireworks

Another New Year’s tradition that will sound familiar if you live in a western nation is the practice of lighting fireworks on New Year’s Eve. 

While some holidays are reserved for family and relaxation at home, New Year’s Eve is an occasion spent out amongst friends. 

Among one of the many options for activities you can enjoy on New Year’s Eve⁠—including dance parties and live music⁠—are fireworks events in numerous locations. 

10. Hold Onto Your Money

If you want to bring in more money in the coming year, you can try out the Mexican New Year’s tradition of holding paper money at midnight. The bigger the bill you can get your hands on and hold when the ball drops, the better. 

Additionally, you should consider putting a few dollars in your shoes. Tt’s thought that putting money in your shoes on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will help you achieve even greater fortune in the near future. 

11. Pack Your Luggage

A resolution for many people at New Year’s is to travel and see the world. If travel is what you want to focus on in the year to come, you can start on New Year’s Day to set the year off right. 

A popular Mexican New Year’s tradition includes packing up your luggage, as if you’re about to travel the globe. Pack any items related to the kind of trip you see yourself on in the near future. If you want to visit a tropical island paradise this year, pack your swimsuit. 

You can go an extra step by walking your luggage around the house, or even around the block. 

12. Celebrate an Indigenous Holiday

Not all of Mexico celebrates New Year’s only on January 1st. There’s a large number of immigrants from nations like China, who celebrate the Lunar New Year. Additionally, many Mexican indigenous groups celebrate New Year’s Day at different times fo the year. 

The Seri people from Sonora, for example, celebrate New Year’s Eve on June 30th. In Veracruz, Mexico, some households recognize the first Friday in March as the new year. 

If you’re in Mexico for a few months, you could celebrate New Year’s multiple times, depending on where you visit. 

January Celebrations in Mexico

In Mexico, January 1st is a national holiday. That means many local stores are closed, and banks, government offices, and schools close, too. Most people stay home on New Year’s Day to recover from the night before, as well as enjoy the new year with immediate family. 

Although it’s a quiet day for locals, museums, archeological sites, and other tourist destinations typically stay open.

But New Year’s Day isn’t the only holiday celebrated in Mexico in the month of January. In fact, children in the country of Mexico might look forward more to January 6th, which is Kings Day. On Kings Day, children in Mexico receive gifts from the Three Kings or Magi. 

If you’re in Mexico in the month of January, you can expect colorful and traditional celebrations from Christmastime through the new year and beyond.

Want to learn more about New Year traditions? Read our guide on New Year's Eve rituals from around the world.


Sources

  1. Barbezat, Suzanne. “Guide to New Year's in Mexico: Customs, Festivals, and Events.” Trip Savvy. 28 November 2019. www.tripsavvy.com/new-years-eve-in-mexico-1588741
  2. Cocking, Lauren. “How To Celebrate New Year’s Eve In Mexico.” 14 November 2016. theculturetrip.com/north-america/mexico/articles/how-to-celebrate-new-years-eve-in-mexico/

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