Category Archives: Holidays and Celebrations

Mexican culture is very celebratory with fiestas for saints, third birthdays, and baptisms. I have been fortunate to experience some of these events and holidays in Mexico and some in Minnesota. Of course Minnesotans know about celebrations, too! Here we’ll discuss and compare holidays and celebrations from both cultures.

Food of Día de los Muertos

Filo making green salsa sopes for breakfast over an open fire. My absolute favorite! Thin and crisp, tangy and creamy at the same time. Mmmmm!

When we go to Mexico to visit family we very well fed. Mex’s sister’s cook for us and everything is always delicious. However, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a very busy time for them.

Preparing tejocotes for the ofrenda

The focus from October 30th to November 2nd the main focus is preparing food for deceased family members so we were a little out of luck in the “getting spoiled” department.  There are a number of traditional foods Mex’s family prepares for their ofrenda or offering for their deceased relatives. We tried to let our son participate as much as possible.

Our son loved helping his dad and Aunt Sofia peel tejocotes. Tejocotes are a small fruit, about double the size of a cherry. First the are boiled in water until their skins pull loose. Once they are all peeled, the tejocotes are simmered with sugar and cinnamon. After about an hour, the liquid starts to thicken and become syrupy. The finished product has an intense, delightful sweetness but don’t eat too quickly because the fruit has a small pit.

Simple green mole with chicken

Mole (MOH-lay) is often called the national dish of Mexico, with each region claiming their own version of the recipe. Stemming from the Nahuatl word mulli, meaning sauce, mole comes in a rainbow of colors; green, red, yellow, black and all shades in between. My family in Mexico says green mole is the only type made for the deceased spirits. Though mole has a reputation as being complicated, with up to 35 ingredients, this green mole is surprisingly simple.

The balance between tomatillos and pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) is very important according to Filo. For every pound of tomatillos, use a little over one cup of shelled pepitas. First the tomatillos are roasted slightly in a pan with some vegetable oil (you could put them under a broiler for about five minutes as well) then they are pulsed in the blender with the pepitas and a couple serrano chiles until smooth. The sauce is simmered with some epazote and salt. That’s it. No garlic (gasp!).  It is a very well-balanced sauce. The nuttiness of the pepitas takes the tartness out of the tomatillos.

It is amazing to see my sister-in-laws spend hours each day, staying up almost all night preparing food to serve the spirits. Besides tejocotes and green mole, they make tamales wrapped in corn leaves, sweet squash that cooks over an open fire for two days, and rice pudding.


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Filed under Food, Holidays and Celebrations, Mexico, Morelos State, Recipes, Tetelilla, Morelos

A foreigner at home

Coming in to Mexico City

Ten hours after leaving our house, Mex and I paused to eat our Minnesota Haroldson apples while looking down at the swelling custom’s line. Five flights arriving almost simultaneously created a chaotic scene at the Mexico City airport.

I looked at the two lines, one that said Ciudadanos Mexicanos and one that said Extranjeros, Foreigners.

“How does it feel to be entering Mexico as a foreigner?” I asked.

After a pause, he smiled slowly and said, “Strange.” This is the first time visiting Mexico since he became a US Citizen.

Our 17-month-old son fell asleep as the plane descended, and slept thru his first passport stamp. For the first time in our journeys to Mexico, a member of Mex’s family was waiting for us at the airport. In the past, I’ve always been a little jealous of traveler’s who exit customs (aduanas) in to the arms of happy family members. It was nice to see my sister-in-law Sofia, and eleven-year-old niece Arlin waiting eagerly for us.

It has been two years, almost to the day, since we were last in Mexico. My husband’s father passed away in late August 2009, and to help Mex with his grief, we decided to visit eight weeks later for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It was one of the most eerily beautiful, touching experiences of my life. When trying to decide a time to visit before our son’s “dreaded” second birthday when he becomes a paying airline traveler, we settled on Day of the Dead over Christmas.

Candy skulls for Day of the Dead

An added bonus for Mex, was the fact that one of the big festivals in his town was Saturday, the day we arrived. One thing I love the most about him is, even though he’s been to Disney World, the Minnesota State Fair and other large festivals in the US, his whole face brightens when he talks about Tianguis, nicknamed Las Naranjas (The Oranges- a very little festival in comparison) and I can see the happiness small celebrations brought in to his impoverished childhood.

Toddler-size mole paddles- that’s mo-lay, the national dish of Mexico, not mole, the wicked little creatures that destroy our lawn. Though the paddles may be useful for those too…

Unfortunately, our son had a fever, congestion, and four hours less sleep than in his normal day so we went rather quickly though the displays. Everyone walking around was dressed up (which, after traveling a total of 14 hours and sleeping only two hours the night before I was way too exhausted to do) and there are vendors selling clay jars, enormous wooden paddles for mole,  tamarind and nut candies, clothing, fruit, toys… There were people serving up fresh potato chips, tacos on tiny 4-inch corn tortillas (always doubled), pozole in big bowls , large slices of thick-crust pizza (with nine types of hot sauce to drizzle on top), rich vanilla ice cream on miniature cones, and of course, piles of oranges which Mex claims are the sweetest of the entire year.

In the small plaza area by the elementary school were some carnival rides. The two-story Ferris wheel,  mini kids roller coaster, and a rather rickety version of the tilt-a-whirl seemed to be the favorites. It was great people watching and, as always, entertaining to be “watched” ourselves. It was funny to see people look at Mex carrying our son (who is pale like his mom), see the wrinkled eyebrows, glance at me trailing just a little bit behind and almost shake their heads like “oh, that explains it!”

Just after our son was born he had jaundice which gave his skin a yellow brown tone darkening him to Mex’s color. When I would take him to Barnes and Noble so I could have a Frappucino and get out of the house, usually an older-than-me (my definition of “older” seems to change rapidly with each year that goes by) woman tell me how cute he was and then flow right on with “What is his dad?” Now of course I realize they meant what ethnicity but I just always found the phrasing of the question interesting. I have a friend who is married to a Korean man and she has had people assume her children are adopted, since Korea is one of the most popular countries to adopt from in Minnesota. All I can say, is it certainly is… interesting… the observations that come from the mouths of complete strangers.

Anyone can toss up a foodstand at the fiesta

Deciding we had to put our baby boy to bed after his long day and high fever, we left without doing any activities or munching any delicious snacks. An hour-long struggle at bed time, meant the weary little traveler ended up in bed with his mom while dad went to enjoy the fiesta with his sister’s. He came back at 12:15 a.m. with stories of near-death experiences on carnival rides and mini tacos.

“Was it as good as you remember?” I asked, before biting in to my still-warm chicken taco.

“Oh, yes!” he exclaimed instantly, his eyes lighting up as if reliving all the excitement of childhood in one momentous flash.

After 16 years living in the United States, marrying a Minnesotan, becoming a US citizen, and travelling across the US and in Europe, few things bring innocent joy to his face like reliving his youth in the little town of Tetelilla, Morelos, Mexico.

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Filed under Bicultural and biracial marriage, Family, Holidays and Celebrations, Mexican culture, Mexico, Morelos State, Tetelilla, Morelos

Dia del Niño- with a niño

I'm not sure who is more excited about the treat bag!

I’m sure my husband was more excited about Dia del niño this year than our son, since he is only 11 months old. I have to admit, I felt that the celebration at Mercado Central in Minneapolis was a little underwhelming.

First sucker!

There was a little stand where kids could go up and pick up a package a goodies and a sucker. There were also clowns making balloon animals, which fascinated our son for a little while. After grabbing a snack from Manny’s Tortas we went outside and had some Mexican style corn (elotes) with cream, cotija cheese and chile. That was the best part of the day in my book!


First elote- Mexican-style roasted corn.


Watching his balloon animal being made. He wouldn't let go of his little treat bag... mainly because of the noisy cellophane, I think, and not because he know what the goodies inside were.



Free face painting. He's not really sure what's going on.

Fascinated by the clown... from a safe distance of course.

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Filed under Hispanic-Latino events in MN, Holidays and Celebrations

Quinceañera in Minnesota

The beautiful 15th birthday girl.

Two weeks ago we attended our first Minnesota quinceañera. The Quinceañera (15th birthday girl) was Mex’s great niece and, although we had a three week old in tow, I didn’t want to miss the event. In Mexico, a girl’s 15th birthday is like an American Sweet 16 party on steroids. The closest American event it compares to in size and ceremony is a wedding (or at least events traditional in my family). Fifteen is the age in Mexico where girls make the transformation from a young girl in to women. Traditionally, this was the age they were considered ready for marriage (the marriage readiness is not really the case in modern Mexico where education is becoming more valued and girls are more encouraged to attend college).

Amazing cake!

We arrived to the church pretty late so did not see much of the ceremony or prayers. There were a few family pictures and then everyone left the church to go to Plaza Verde on Lake Street for the reception party. I am so glad we got there early because soon after we arrived, the Plaza security stopped allowing people to enter because the reception hall was over capacity with almost 400 people in attendance. There was a mariachi band and a DJ, but the music was extremely loud for our little boy. I tried to wrap a blanket around his tiny ears to block some of the sound but we ended up not staying very long.

There was a head table where the quinceañera and her Court of Honor sit. This consists of chambelanes (her closest guy friends, usually around six) and her closest

Her last doll, dressed in a purple gown to match the birthday girl, and the head table.

girl friends or family members with whom she wants to share the spotlight. Many items are traditionally used in the ceremony such as a tiara, scepter, bible, and last doll. The last doll is used as part of the ceremony, representing the last of her childhood items because now she must focus on being a young lady.

There are many traditions throughout the celebration. The chambelanes participate with the birthday girl in a series of dances that start off the evening. Then there is a Changing of the Shoes, where the father and mother change the young girl’s flat shoes to high heels, symbolizing the Quinceañera’s transformation from a little girl to a young lady. It is also traditional for the parents to replace the headpiece worn by the girl during the church ceremony with a Tiara. This makes her a “princess” before God and the world, giving her the ability to face challenges in her future.

One of the traditional dances.

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Filed under Family, Hispanic-Latino events in MN, Holidays and Celebrations, Mexican culture

May 1st – Mexico vs. Minnesota

The first of May is a holiday for both Mex and I. Here in Minnesota, we celebrate May Day, or at least we used to. My mother’s parents met when my grandpa and a couple of his siblings (he had 17 of them)delivered May baskets to my grandma and her family, their new neighbors. May baskets were little baskets usually filled with flowers or treats of some kind. They were hung on a front door, and the person making the delivery would ring the bell and run. The person receiving the basket had to catch them and once they were caught, they had to deliver a kiss. I never asked my grandma if she actually caught my grandpa that day but she certainly caught his eye. Apparently this basket tradition is still around because my sister had two baskets delivered to her house on May Day by family friends. Nobody was caught and kissed though!

In Mexico, May 1st is International Worker’s Day or “Labor Day” where everyone has the day off and it is a common day for protests. This is actually a world-wide event celebrated in places like India, Sweden and Australia as well. Since 2006, the Immigrant community across the US, mainly Latino immigrants, have chosen May 1st as a day to lead rally’s for immigration reform. Mex and I were considering going to Saturday’s rally in Minneapolis but unfortunately, when I woke up my left foot looked like a swollen sausage and I could barely get a shoe on my foot. I did not know if it would be wise to squeeze into a shoe and then waddle for a mile or two at eight-and-a-half months pregnant. Thankfully the rally in Minnesota was peaceful and about 2000 people turned out to show support for immigrant rights. The rally was lead by a huge Mexican flag. For a while in 2007, I was attending meetings for an Immigrant rights group. I did raise the point at one meeting that if you were fighting to become a US citizen you should show pride in the US by carrying our countries flag and not your home country. It was not a well received point but it seemed to make sense to me.

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Filed under Holidays and Celebrations, Minnesota vs. Mexico

Día del niño – Day of the child

Flyer of family-oriented events this Sunday at Mercado Central, Minneapolis, MN

Every April 30th, Mexicans take time out of their day to celebrate and honor the children. This morning I couldn’t sleep when my husband got up (4:30am) so I turned on Univision in an attempt to expose myself and the boy inside me to Spanish. When he came back in the room there was a news story about today being the Day of the Children or Día del niño. He seemed almost as excited now as he must have been as a child living in Mexico. Today all the children will be getting cookies and ice cream in school and will get to play games for most of the day. There is one celebration that I found in the Twin Cities (at Mercado Central in Minneapolis) which I guess we won’t go to this year but will have to plan on going to in the future. One more thing to put on the calendar in our attempt to incorporate as much of Mexico into our lives as possible living in Minnesota.

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Filed under Hispanic-Latino events in MN, Holidays and Celebrations

Day of the Dead

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Filed under Family, Holidays and Celebrations, Mexican culture, Mexico, Tetelilla, Morelos