Custom tours by Journey Mexico give guests a chance to witness Oaxaca’s uniqueNight of the Radishes celebration. // © 2014 Journey Mexico
Feature image (above): Palace Resorts’ Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort in Cancun is celebrating the holidays with a new ice show. // © 2014 Palace Resorts
The holidays are fast approaching, so it’s high time for travelers to start planning memorable ways to celebrate. In Mexico, the possibilities are especially extensive, since Christmas festivities begin in early December and run through early January.
Events dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint, dominate the calendar at the beginning of the month. Next come a series of interesting traditions, including Las Posadas, which runs from Dec. 16 through Dec. 24, with nativity scenes, caroling and lots of food. Christmas Eve is a hallowed night throughout Mexico, while the Epiphany, on Jan. 6, is when families mark the arrival of the three wise men with still more festivities.
New Year’s Eve brings more secular celebrations with parties, fireworks and lively gatherings around the country, even as many Mexicans welcome the new year by staying at home with family.
With colorful decorations, music and public celebrations throughout the season, it’s an enjoyable time for travelers to visit Mexico. Hotels and tour operators make it easy for visitors to enjoy the festivities as well. Here are a few examples.
Broadway on Ice Holiday Celebration
Palace Resorts recently announced the debut of “Broadway on Ice - A Special Holiday Celebration” this winter at the Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort in Cancun. Performances of the limited-engagement residency will take place at the resort from Dec. 22, 2014 through Jan. 4, 2015. As an added incentive, Palace Resorts guests who book a stay of five nights or more during the run of the show will receive two complimentary tickets to the performance.
Custom Holiday Tours
The tour operator Journey Mexico coordinates custom itineraries that can include several different holiday events and festivals around Mexico. Oaxaca is among their recommended destinations for the season, where popular activities include “calendas” (processions of people carrying torches, followed by decorated vehicles and large dancing puppets) and “posadas” (during which groups of families and neighbors stop at homes, asking for shelter as Mary and Joseph did in the Biblical story).
The events on Dec. 23, the Night of the Radishes, are unique to Oaxaca. This annual event, which dates to 1897, is centered around local farmers and food vendors who create and display artistically carved radishes, flowers, nativity scenes and even political characters. Originally created to help publicize the quality of produce available for Christmas feasts, this memorable event is now also a favorite with travelers.
Oaxacan Cuisine & Christmas
Journeys International, a Michigan-based operator, is offering an eight-day “Christmas in Oaxaca” itinerary that includes attendance at parades featuring giant papier-mache heads and the famed and quirky Night of the Radishes festival. Also included is attendance at the traditional Calenda parade and the opportunity to join locals to celebrate Noche Buena, which is Christmas Eve. Participants can also join a cooking class to learn about Oaxaca’s regional delicacies, including mole, squash blossoms and tamales. A visit to a local market to shop for ingredients is part of the experience.
Seasonal Escorted Tours
The tour operator Christmas Journeys is offering escorted Christmas and New Year’s tours that take in general, year-round tourist attractions, as well as some seasonal activities. Accommodations are available in three-, four- and five-star hotels, with 13-night itineraries that include Mexico City, Teotihuacan, Oaxaca (with Christmas dinner), San Cristobal de las Casas, Palenque, Merida and Chichen Itza.
Spruce Up Your Suite
With two properties — Grand Velas Riviera Maya and Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit — Velas Resorts offers two possibilities for celebrating the holidays, both of which are ideal for families with children. At both properties, guests can reserve an in-suite tree with custom-wrapped toys from Santa (available from the company’s online store). The tree can arrive decorated with lights and ornaments or arrive unadorned so that the family can decorate together.
Tree Decorating and Holiday Weddings
Journese sells Mexico holiday packages that allow travelers to take part in and observe everything from pinata parties to the nine-day Las Posadas celebration, from Dec. 12 through Jan. 6. Among the hotel options in the Journese portfolio is the One&Only Palmilla Los Cabos, where the KidsOnly Club has a holiday program that includes writing letters to Santa and decorating a Christmas tree. Journese can also help couples plan a destination holiday wedding in Mexico. Incentives for holiday weddings include a future travel credit of up to $1,500 for travelers and up to 1,500 bonus points for travel agents. In addition, the bride and groom can receive free airfare, based on availability.