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Learn Spanish and Celebrate Christmas in Oaxaca

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Christmas in Oaxaca

light decoration of Christmas in Oaxaca
Zocalo of Oaxaca during Christmas

On December 16, Mexico begins a nine-day celebration known as "Las Posadas," an important tradition for many Catholic Mexicans. This celebration reenacts the trials that Mary and Joseph endured before finding a place for Jesus to be born. Families take turns holding the Posada in their home while the remaining adults and children act as pilgrims, walking from house to house carrying candles and singing, looking for somewhere to stay. At each house, the resident rejects the pilgrims through song. The weary pilgrims continue from house to house until they reach the pre-designated place where the Posada takes place, where Mary and Joseph are finally recognized and allowed to enter. And the celebration begins!

On the 3rd week of December at the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca during our Christmas Spanish Program every December, we host a "posada," in which homestay families, intercambios, teachers, staff and friends of the Institute partake in this traditional celebration, in which we sing songs, drink punch and break the piñatas created by students earlier that week in the piñata making workshop.

Similar processions also begin at local churches; participants carry lit candles and sing verses asking for Posada and other holiday songs as they wind through the streets of Oaxaca.

On Christmas Eve, pilgrims who act out the last Posada are followed by the calendas, or processions with allegorical floats that wind through the city and the zócalo, decorated by churches and neighborhoods. The celebration culminates at midnight with the Misa de Gallo and the family celebration on Christmas Day.

Religious Celebrations During December in Oaxaca

December is not only a month characterized by typical Christmas celebrations but also one of the most joyful religious seasons for the Catholic population of Oaxaca. In Oaxaca, three religious images of Marian affiliation are celebrated: Nuestra Señora de Juquila, the Virgin of Guadalupe and "Nuestra Señora de la Soledad."

La Virgen de Juquila

Since the 17th Century, on December 8, when the patronal feast takes place, devotees of the Virgin of Juquila make pilgrimages from distant regions of the state or the country. Whether on foot, by bicycle, running with torches, or in trucks and cars, pilgrims must reach Santa Catarina Juquila in the Sierra Sur of Oaxaca - some 200 kilometers from Oaxaca.

La Virgen de Guadalupe

On December 12, although the sanctuary of the Virgin of Guadalupe is in Mexico City, the cult of Guadalupe is present throughout Mexico. Therefore, it is not unusual to find an infinity of temples or chapels that the faithful visit yearly. Oaxaca is not far behind: the old hermitage sheltered by the former convent of Guadalupe, located north of Juarez Park, began to be built in 1644. The current church receives thousands of visitors on the 12th of this month. Undoubtedly, the church is the national religious symbol par excellence; because of this, the Patron Saint's Day has become an extraordinarily popular festival beyond the merely religious.

Virgen de la Soledad

It is not quite the same on December 18, when the image of the Virgen de la Soledad (Virgin of Solitude) walks the most important streets of Oaxaca. Patroness of the city, this religious image has become, over time, one of the most beloved and representative symbols of Oaxacan Catholics. Located west of the city, the Basilica de la Soledad, built between 1682 and 1690, is one of the most representative temples of the novo-Hispanic Baroque. , its façade is perhaps one of the most beautiful in the city.

Basilica of "Nuestra señora de la soledad"

In each of these remarkable festivities, the presence of the castles and fireworks, toritos and cutters will fill the silence of the December nights with lights and booms that precede the calm of Christmas and New Year's Eve in Oaxaca.

La Noche de Rábanos - Radish night

A figure during the radish night in Oaxaca, on December 23
December 23 Radish Night Oaxaca

On December 23 takes place the most remarkable Oaxacan festivity around Christmas,  "La noche de los Rabanos" or "Radish Night," a collection of altars around the Zocalo representing the traditions of Oaxaca and nativity scenes created with fascinating designs made with radishes of different sizes, immortal flowers and totomoxtle(husk)

Tip: The exhibition only lasts a few hours, and in the last few years, it has increased in popularity, so go early in the day. The exhibition opens at 3:00 PM, but you can arrive earlier to make the cue. The pick hour is at 7:00 PM.

Oaxaca Christmas Calendar

December 8 - Celebration of the Virgen de Juquila

December 12 - Virgen de Guadalupe

December 18 - Virgen de la Soledad

December 16 to 24 - Posadas

December 23 - Noche de rábanos (night of the radishes)

December 24 - Last Posada and Calendas from all churches of Oaxaca to the Zocalo, Misa de gallo.

December 25 - Christmas

From early December to early January, in Mitla the La Villa Mágica de Mitla takes place. A fair with Christmas lights, gastronomy and folk art, if you are in Oaxaca during those days, don't forget to visit Mitla.

Enjoy Christmas in Oaxaca while Learning Spanish in our Christmas program from December 4 to December 29

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