As the year comes to an end, a question we get asked on repeat from our travel planning clients is, “Is Mexico good for New Year’s Eve?”
Our answer? If you like being around amazing people who love to party, have a slew of superstitions and traditions, and have a love for fireworks, then our response is very much yes. Say “Feliz Año Nuevo” (pronounced “Fay-lease Anne-yoh Nway-voh”) by putting Mexico at the top of your New Year’s plans.
But let’s talk about Mexican New Year’s traditions, what makes Mexico a unique destination, and where to travel for the holiday.
First off, How do they celebrate New Year’s Eve in Mexico?
When we talked about how Christmas is celebrated in Mexico, we shared that the holiday season runs from early December until King’s Day or Día de Reyes on January 6th. And New Year’s Day is a national holiday during those festivities.
Like much of the world, there is a mix of public and private parties and events. In Mexico, the celebration often kicks off with a late-night dinner starting around 11 PM on December 31st and goes into the wee hours on January 1st.
While there is no one set menu, you’ll find some of the foods linked to superstitions (see below). Also, some foods make it on to almost every table like bacalao or salt cod with olives and tomatoes, various tamales, lentil soup, festive drinks like a hot fruit punch known as ponche and an eggnog-like sip known as rompope, and buñuelos.
Celebrations might spill out onto the street as the evening progresses, while others ring in the New Year with their friends at private parties or in public plazas.
A Few Mexican New Year Traditions
Mexico has many traditions for New Year’s. While a few are universal— like a countdown to midnight and toasting with bubbly, others are specific to Mexico. Some of these are traditions (like packing a suitcase) are becoming less common while others (like eating grapes) tends to be widely observed.
Eat 12 Grapes
Originating in Spain, this tradition involves eating 12 grapes in 12 seconds. Each grape is said to represent a month of the year and you get one wish for each month.
If you finish all the grapes in 12 seconds, it’s said your wishes will come true. And, if you have a sour grape, it’s said to mean you’ll have a lousy month. Our advice: eat seedless grapes, and you’ll be set no matter what you believe!
Choose Your Underwear Carefully
Before you toss on your New Year’s Eve outfit, make sure you carefully select your underwear. Choose red underwear for love and passion; yellow underwear for prosperity and happiness; green underwear for wealth and well-being; and white underwear for hope and peace. Some say that you can use candles instead of underwear and simply burn the colors for those things you desire.
Pack A Suitcase
To ensure safe travels all year long, pack your luggage and go for a stroll around the block. Or take the easier way and walk a circle around an empty suitcase set in the middle of your living room.
Don’t Forget The Lentils
Lentils are also thought to bring prosperity in the coming year. Some eat lentil soup before or right after midnight while others leave them on their doorstep, and others still carry them around all night.
Say Adios To Bad Vibes
To remove any negativity lingering from the past year, people clean their houses on New Year’s Eve. Bonus tip: while sweeping out the bad stuff, drop a few coins on the ground and sweep them into your house or a shoe. This action ensures that money will flow in the new year. Finally, fireworks are lit at midnight to frighten evil spirits from “El Año Viejo” away and welcome good luck.
Smash A Buñuelo
In Oaxaca, there is a tradition of eating crispy fritters called buñuelos, which are drizzled with a sweet syrup and served on a ceramic dish. After eating the sweet treat, people wish and break the dish by smashing it to represent breaking with the past.
Where To Travel In Mexico For New Year
While there are tons of spots across Mexico to celebrate New Year’s, some—like Playa del Carmen–will be packed with rowdy tourists. Here are five locations to celebrate the New Year.
To Party In The Streets: Guadalajara
As one of the biggest cities in Mexico, Guadalajara comes alive with colorful lights and firework displays. Whether you head to the city center, the hip Colonia Americana neighborhood, or the charming pueblo of Tlaquepaque, there is something for everyone here. Welcoming the year by eating iconic local food, taking a sip of tequila, and a swing at the piñata to dig into local pastimes.
To Soak Up The Sun: Los Cabos
Are white-sand beaches and crystal blue waves more your style? Los Cabos is the destination for you. Besides five-star resorts and tons of fun outdoor activities from water sports to horseback riding, Los Cabos also has a quaint historic town and art district of San Jose del Cabo and the hippy enclave of Todos Santos.
If you want to toast the New Year in style, head to La Botica. You’ll find a secret Prohibition-style speakeasy with swanky decor and apothecary-themed cocktails.
For The Biggest Party Around: Mexico City
As the capital of Mexico, CDMX (or Ciudad de México) throws a major party during New Year’s. While there are parties and events across the city, one of the most iconic spots to go is the Plaza de la Constitución (aka El Zócalo).
Set in the middle of the historic center with the country’s top government buildings, this enormous Plaza becomes ground zero for celebrations. Like Times Square in New York, crowds gather among the decorations and festive lighting and fireworks.
For Parades: Oaxaca City
This colorful little town is such a delight that you need to add it to your travel list. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Oaxaca City is bursting with history and stories of the past.
When visiting Oaxaca City, trying all the classic local foods, including mole and sipping on mezcal in a downtown mezcalerías, is a must. Pop into Mezcaleria in Situ, where the staff will teach you everything there is to know about this smoky spirit.
For An Artsy Take: San Miguel de Allende
Once a sleepy colonial town, San Miguel de Allende has exploded on the scene as a vibrant, artsy community. The charming cobblestone streets, farm-to-table movement, and baroque architecture create an intoxicating mix.
San Miguel is a place you’ll want to explore on foot, so pack your walking shoes and set off. After working up an appetite, head over to Cenaduria la Alborada. A local favorite, this restaurant serves mouth-watering pozoles on a lovely little terrace.
For R&R With Wine: Valle de Guadalupe
Want to clock in the New Year in a lowkey fashion? Then head to Valle de Guadalupe, the heart of Mexican wine country. Spend your days wine tasting, eating at some of the country’s top restaurants, day-tripping to Ensenada, or simply relaxing at one of the area’s numerous boutique hotels. Oh, and did we mention that it’s just 100 miles from San Diego so that you can drive there in less than two hours? Yup, it’s the perfect getaway for Southern Californians!
Pack Your Bags
Want to take the stress out of planning a New Year’s vacation away? Have questions about your Mexico vacation budget? Our Mexico travel planning service is the easiest way to arrange your holiday.
We’ll take care of the hard stuff, so all you have to do is relax and enjoy the mezcal!
More Mexico On Salt & Wind Travel
- The Six Neighborhoods To Visit When You Travel To Mexico City
- From Mexico Con Amor: The Everyday Foods That Originated In Mexico
- From Al Pastor to Carne Asada: A Brief Guide To Classic Mexican Tacos
Photo Credit: Mexico City fireworks by Marti Bug Catcher; Ponche by carlosrojas20; grapes photo by Larisa Blinova; photo of wine tasting in Valle de Guadalupe by Joanne Pio; all other photos by Salt & Wind Travel