A calendar of special events and holidays specific to Puerto Vallarta…
NEW YEARS DAY
National Holiday: Schools, banks, post offices, government offices and many shops are closed.
New Year’s Eve, the night of December 31, is a BIG celebration with all-night fiestas. Spectacular fireworks displays and street dancing are the norm. New Year’s Day, January 1, is time for recuperation. Many businesses are closed.
DÍA de los SANTOS REYES
DAY of the KINGS
This is a traditional Christian holiday honoring the three kings who bore gifts for the Jesus baby. It’s celebrated with pinatas and by giving gifts to children and by eating the Rosca de Reyes, a cake (in the shape of a crown) embedded with a tiny image of baby Jesus and an image of a king.
The finder of the baby, which symbolizes the baby Jesus hidden from Herod’s army, along with the finder of the king, have to make and serve tamales and hot chocolate or atole for a following party on February 2, when all of the people present for the cutting of the Rosca de Reyes gather together again to celebrate Dia de la Candelaria.
This holiday is rapidly being replaced in Puerto Vallarta with children receiving their gifts at Christmas.
Rosco de Reyes
FEAST DAY of St. ANTHONY de ABAD
A religious holiday when animals receive blessing in the Church. The Vallarta SPCA has a special ceremony for this event.
DÍA de la CANDELARIA
A religious holiday (see Day of the Kings, January 6). Celebrated traditionally (but rarely in modern times) with processions, dancing and bullfights. Seeds and candles are blessed and this is traditionally the day when Churches replenish their yearly supply of candles. This is the mid point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. In the United States, this day is known as Groundhog Day. In ancient Biblical times, it was believed that a woman was “unclean” for 40 days after giving birth and this is the 40th day after the birth of Jesus and he would have been taken to the Temple on this day.
In Mexico, families own an image of the Christ child, a niño Dios. A godparent is chosen for the niño Dios and is then responsible for hosting celebrations between Christmas and Candlemas. On Christmas eve the niño Dios is placed in the Nativity scene, on January 6th, King’s Day, the child is brought presents from the Magi, and on February 2nd, the child is dressed in fine clothes and presented in the church.
Tamales are the traditional food of this holiday.
FEBRUARY 5 (traditional)
FEBRUARY 2 (actual in 2014)
DÍA de la CONSTITUCIÓN
National Holiday: Schools, banks, post offices, government offices and many shops are closed. By National decree, this holiday now falls officially on the first Monday of February, making it normally a 3-day weekend for workers. This year, 2015, it will be on Monday, February 2 and will also be celebrated on Thursday, February 5.
There is a traditional parade downtown along the Malecon on February 5.
The Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1917 is the present constitution of Mexico. It was drafted in Santiago de Querétaro by a Constitutional Convention during the Mexican Revolution. It was approved by the Constitutional Congress on February 5, 1917, with Venustiano Carranza serving as the first president under its terms.
DÍA de la AMISTAD
Not an official holiday but a popular commercial holiday.
DÍA de la BANDERA
A holiday honoring the Mexican Flag. Red, White and Green dominate the colors of the day as the military and citizens participate in a parade through town. This is not an official holiday.
CARNAVAL – MARDI GRAS
From 2009 to 2012 Carnaval was celebrated in Puerto Vallarta with a very large, joyous and successful nighttime parade through Old Town, sponsored by Club Mañana. It was met with extreme approval by much of the populace and opposed by several conservative civic groups because of its feared gay overtones. The parade is now run by real estate interests and the celebration is a watered-down “family values” parade.
MIÉRCLES de CENIZA
The beginning of Lent and the end of Carnaval, the seven days before the start of Lent, a celebration of what used to be called, in more primitive societies, the rights of spring. Many people here in Vallarta will be seen walking around all day with ash marks on their foreheads. Traditionally, they are also supposed to fast and do penance for the sins of Carnaval.
MARCH 21 (traditional)
MARCH 16 (actual in 2014)
BIRTHDAY OF BENITO JUAREZ
National Holiday: Schools, banks, post offices, government offices and many shops are closed. By National decree, this holiday now officially falls on the third Monday of March, producing a 3-day holiday for most people.
Benito Juarez biography
March 29 – Palm Sunday, Domingo de Ramos
April 3 – Good Friday, Santo Viernes
April 5 – Easter Sunday Domingo de Resurrección or Pascua
QUEMA DE JUDAS
Easter, the reverent observance of the last days of Jesus, is a movable feast as observed in Western cultures and is the first Sunday following the full moon following the spring equinox. It is based on the Hebrew lunar calendar and can occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.
Semana Santa begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Saturday and celebrates the last days of Christ’s life. Passion Plays and the Procession of the 12 Stations of the Cross are popular religious events of this week.
On Good Friday banks and government offices are closed.
Pascua begins on Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday) and is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection and the release from the sacrifices of Lent. In Puerto Vallarta, Pascua is the vacation week of the younger generations here. Semana Santa is more of a family affair and the beaches are overflowing with humanity. In Pascua, Vallarta comes alive at night and thousands of young people are on the streets, the Malecón and in the clubs.
Semana Santa This week and Pasqua, the following week are traditionally the most popular oceanside tourist weeks of the year for Mexicans. Many activities and many people.
PASCUA – EASTER SUNDAY
A celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. In Puerto Vallarta, Semana Santa and Pascua are the traditional ‘spring break’ weeks for inland families who use the holidays to spend time at the beaches. To say that it is crowded here is an gross understatement. I’ve also noticed that the first week of the vacations, Semana Santa is more of a family affair and the second week, Pascua is more of a young, singles situation.
PRIMERO de MAYO
National Holiday (Friday, May 1): Schools, banks, post offices, government offices and many shops are closed.
The old-fashioned Communist May Day, a celebration of Unions and working men and women. Here it is an official government holiday with a large parade downtown, mostly of union workers.
DIA de la SANTA CRUZ
Unfinished buildings and construction sites are topped with decorated crosses to protect the workers on this day. Customarily, owners and contractors allow the workers and their families to celebrate with picnics and fireworks at the construction site. It’s normal for the employer to provide cerveza and food for this picnic.
Here in Puerto Vallarta specifically, there is a neighborhood fair around the Santa Cruz Church at Aquacate and Cárdenas streets, with carnival rides, food and game booths and fireworks with the burning of a special fireworks castillo late at night (at approximately 11 pm).
CINCO de MAYO
The Anniversary of the defeat of the French army at the battle of Puebla in 1862. No longer an official governmental holiday (since 2001) but it’s a bank holiday.
Cinco de Mayo is the most popularly celebrated Latino holiday in the United States probably because it’s the only non-political Mexican holiday that doesn’t have something to do with the United States invading Mexico in one way or another.
Cinco de Mayo History
DÍA de la MADRE
Not an “official” holiday but an extremely popular holiday in Mexico. Here in Puerto Vallarta, it is one of the most active days of celebration for the whole year.
Mexico is a very matriarchal society and mothers are quite popular here.
PUERTO VALLARTA’S BIRTHDAY
Puerto Vallarta became a municipality on this date in 1928 and an official city on this date in 1968. Both are reasons to party and in most years, PARTY is what the City does on this night. There are speeches by “dignitaries,” of course, and usually a fine musical show at the Malecón. Fireworks are also traditional and on many years, there is a large cake in the Presidencia square that is cut up for all Vallartens (and visitors) to eat.
Día de la MARINA
Head to the Malecón in the morning to view an offshore parade of all the Navy ships in port, followed by tour boats and fishing boats flying their nautical flags. The Navy ships lead and the other boats follow and form a circle for a short ceremony honoring Naval personel.
If you want a treat outside of the normal Vallarta holiday experience, head down to Yelapa for Navy Day where they have a more “traditional” village party. People gather in small pangas (or in whatever boats are in the harbor at the time and everyone (kids, civic leaders, anyone on the beach…) and head out to sea, tossing flowers into the water in a small ceremony and then race back to the beach where a large, rather jovial party takes place all day and well into the night.
The third Sunday in June.
SAN JUAN BAUTISTA
ST. JOHN the BAPTIST
Religious festivals and fairs celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist. There are popular jokes centered around getting dunked in water and a tradition of taking a swim at dawn.
PASEADA LAS PALMAS
Tens of thousands of Vallartenses gather in the small town of Las Palmas for a day of partying and horsemanship. This is a local tradition that has been strong for decades. To get there by bus, take a “Las Palmas” bus which will have LAS PASEADAS written on the front window on the day of the paseada.
PASEADAS de EL COLORADO
Día del CHARRO
In the morning there is a parade through town with horsemen/women wearing beautifully decorated jackets, pants and sombreros riding finely exquisite horses decked with their best equipment. Later in the day and into the evening, festivities continue at various local charro rings with bullfights, calf roping, food and dancing.
EL GRITO de DOLORES
CRY of INDEPENDENCE
At 11 pm, in the Municipal Square of almost every city in Mexico on this day, a cry is made, “Mexicanos, Vive Mexico.”. The mayor stands on a balcony above the people in the Presidencia Square and proclaims Mexico’s independence to the cheers of thousands. The celebrations are patriotic and spirited. Following the Grito is a magnificent display of fireworks and then a traditional street dance that lasts well into the morning hours. The Grito is very enthusiastically celebrated here in Vallarta.
DIA de la INDEPENDENCIA
National Holiday (September 16): Schools, banks, post offices, government offices and many shops are closed.
A celebration of the day that Miguel Hidalgo first delivered the Grito de Dolores announcing the Mexican revolt against Spanish rule.
Shortly before dawn on September 16, 1810, the Catholic Priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, made a decision that revolutionized the course of Mexican history. Hidalgo of Dolores, Guanajuato, ordered the arrest of Dolores’ native Spaniards. Then he rang the church bell as he customarily did to call the Indians to mass. The message that Hidalgo gave to the Indians and Mestizos called them to retaliate against the hated Gachupines, or native Spaniards, who had exploited and oppressed Mexicans for ten generations. A revolution began.
Hidalgo was expelled by the Catholic Church on Sept. 24, 1810, nine days after he issued the first call for Mexicans to take up arms against the Spanish colonial government and he was executed by the Spanish in 1811. He was decapitated and his head put on display in Guanajuato until 1821 to warn others not to revolt.
Roman Catholic investigators announced in October, 2007, that the excommunication of Hidalgo was annulled because the Church now claims that “he confessed his sins” shortly before being shot by a Spanish firing squad.
DÍA de la RAZA
National Holiday (October 12) Schools, banks, post offices, government offices and many shops, are closed.
This day is the celebration of the first encounter of Americans with Europeans, and is associated with Columbus landing in the Americas in 1492
DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS,
DAY OF THE DEAD
On November 1, the souls of the children are honored with special designs in the altars, using the color white on flowers and candles
On November 2, the souls of the adults are remembered.
Before the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, the natives celebrated the return of the souls in the months of July and August. The Spaniards changed the fiestas to November 2 to coincide with All Souls’ Day of the Catholic Church.
It is a time to make fun of death through calaveras, poetry allusive to a particular person (generally politicians), and named sugar, chocolate or amaranth skulls that are given to friends so “they can eat their own death.”
Preparations start in the third week of October with the harvesting of the cempasuchitl flower, also known as the flower of the 20 petals or the flower of the dead. It is sold in the mercados, where the families also buy items for their altars. Fruits, vegetables and special dishes are prepared for the soul to enjoy.
DÍA DE LA REVOLUCIÓN
National Holiday (November 16): Schools, banks, post offices, government offices and many shops are closed. By National decree, this holiday now officially falls on the third Monday of November, producing a 3-day holiday for most people.
From 1876 until 1911, Porfirio Díaz ruled Mexico. Díaz’s time in office is remembered for the advances he brought in industry and modernization, at the expense of human rights and liberal reforms.
On November 20, 1910, Madero issued the Plan de San Luis Potosí, which declared the Díaz regime illegal and initiated a revolution against Porfirio Díaz.
SAINT CECILIA’S DAY
St Cecilia is the Patron Saint of Musicians and this day is celebrated in Puerto Vallarta with a mariachi mass. Some years this is a public mass at Los Arcos Amphitheater and is followed by mariachi performances.
FIESTA OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
The celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Virgen de Gualdalupe), with its colorful religious processions (Peregrinaciones) from December 1-12, is the most public and extended religious holiday in Mexico. Guadalupe is the patron saint of both Puerto Vallarta and of Mexico. She is also known as La Virgen Morena (the brown-skinned virgin). She is believed to be the manifestation of the Virgin Mary in the Americas.
December 12th celebrates the miraculous appearance of the Virgin Guadalupe (Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe or Virgen de Guadalupeto) to the peasant Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin on a hill of Tepeyac near Mexico City in 1531.
Puerto Vallarta celebrates this event with daily processions by social, civic and business groups and from adjoining communities to the Church of Guadalupe, in the center of Downtown Vallarta for special masses. Some of the larger of these processions may include parades with floats, dancers, music and fireworks. As each group arrives at the Cathedral, the church bells are rung in a rather enthusiastic manner. Bells will ring many times each day (and night) during this period. The final day of the peregrinaciones is a fiesta with fireworks and food vendors in the central plaza. A schedule of the peregrinaciones can be purchased for 20 pesos or so at or near the Church.
Visitors are encouraged to watch the processions from the sidewalks or to even join in. The processions usually start around the area of Juarez and October 31st streets. Food booths are set up in the Presidencia Plaza. A program showing who is walking and when, is available at the Cathedral or at the Religion/Lottery store on Libertad (so you can walk with your colonia or hotel or Mary Kay group…).
At midnight on December 11, large numbers of people gather around the Church of Guadalupe to sing the Mañanitas to Mary. During the day of December 12, Mariachi bands play and around mid-day the main pilgrimage named de los hijo suentes y previligiados (missing and privileged children) occurs with the largest assemblies of the whole 12 days. Children are dressed in sackcloths and traditional costumes made of linen.
At 8 pm on December 12 is the last mass of the celebration and the processions keep coming to the Church until almost midnight.
Bus service may be disrupted through Centro Vallarta during the processions
“Birthday” of Puerto Vallarta. In 1851, don Guadalupe Sánchez Torres founded Puerto Vallarta and settled with family and friends along the Cuale River. There is usually some type of minor observance at city hall.
DECEMBER 16 – 24
POSADAS: Families, businesses and neighborhoods celebrate these holidays with parties known as “posadas.” A posada is a re-enactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for lodging in Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus. There are candlelit processions to houses where the people ask for lodging with a song. The host refuses entrance several times before finally opening wide the door and, also with a song, signifies the start of the party. The pilgrims come into the home and kneel around the Nativity scene to first pray the rosary consisting of the following prayers: 50 Hail Marys, 5 Our Fathers, 5 Glories and the Litany. Ponche is served and the children break open a piñata filled with peanuts, fruits and candy canes.
THE POSADO SONG:
En nombre del cielo (In the name of heaven)
Os pido posada (I request you grant us shelter)
Pues no puede andar (Given that she cannot walk)
Mi esposa amada (She my beloved wife)
No seas inhumano (Please do not be inhumane)
Tennos caridad (grant us charity)
Que el Rey de los cielos (Since the God of heavens)
Te lo premiará (Will prize you for that)
Venimos rendidos (We come very tired)
Desde Nazaret (From Nazareth)
Yo soy carpintero (I am a carpenter)
De nombre José (Named Joseph)
Posada te pide (I ask you shelter)
Amado casero (Dear innkeeper)
Por sólo una noche (for just one night)
La reina del cielo (the queen of heaven)
Mi esposa es María (My wife is Mary)
Es reina del cielo (She’s the Heavenly Queen)
Y madre va a ser (And she’ll be mother)
Del divino verbo (Of the divine word)
Dios pague, señores (May God pay, sirs)
Vuestra caridad (your charity)
Y que os colme el cielo (And may heaven swamp you)
De felicidad (With happiness)
¡Entren santos peregrinos! (Come in, holy pilgrims!)
¡Reciban éste rincón! (Receive this corner!)
Que aunque es pobre la morada (Because, even though the place is poor)
¡Se las doy de corazón! (I offer it to you from my heart!)
A night of parties and revelry here in Vallarta. Families gather late in the evening and feast until dawn. Pinatas are hung and children receive gifts, even though the Mexican tradition is for gifts to be given to children on January 6th, instead.
The main Christmas celebration is this traditional family dinner on Christmas Eve, Noche Buena is sometimes preceded by attending Midnight Mass. This night is possibly the most popular party night of the year here in Vallarta. People gather, set off fireworks, eat feasts, drink, sing, laugh and generally party all night long. If you stay in a tourist hotel, you may never notice that this holiday exists. If you visit or live in the Colonias, you will never forget it.
Noche Buena is such a popular party night here in Mexico that it has a special beer named after it.
National Holiday: Schools, banks, post offices, government offices and many shops are closed.
This day is mainly for recuperatation from Noche Buena. Mexico, except for the tourist industry, closes down for a day, not our of religious fervor or respect but, rather, out of exhaustion.
DÍA DE LOS SANTOS INOCENTES
The Day of the Holy Innocents is the Christian commemoration of the legend of the massacre of all children under two years of age born in Bethlehem (Judea), ordered by King Herod to get rid of the newborn Jesus of Nazareth.
In Mexico (and other Latin cultures), this day is celebrated on December 28th. It’s customary to make jokes of all kinds, much like the unrelated North American custom of making jokes on April 1st. The media make jokes or misrepresent its content so that the information may seem real (this concept, that the media doesn’t misrepresent on the other 364 days of the year, is, itself, a joke to some, but I digress…). People will “try” to borrow money from friends on this day as only a fool would lend it on this day of jokes.