What Are the Best Tips for Making Traditional Mexican Food for Christmas?

T. Carrier

A traditional Mexican Christmas is a prolonged event that celebrates religion and community. These factors should be considered when designing meal accompaniments and determining the size and makeup of the menu. In addition, traditional Mexican culinary tastes are likely to be incorporated into the meal, such as corn-based tortilla foods, spicy foods, and chocolate desserts. Holiday meals, however, are also largely guided by food availability, so a uniform and standard menu does not truly exist.

A rich Oaxacan mole sauce can be made with Mexican chocolate and cinnamon.
A rich Oaxacan mole sauce can be made with Mexican chocolate and cinnamon.

Spiciness is a common staple of Mexican food, so it will likely play a prominent role in traditional Mexican food for Christmas. As such, plenty of peppers, garlic, onions, and similar spices should be on hand. A popular Mexican condiment, mole sauce, is made with the aforementioned ingredients along with other additives like nuts, olive oil, and bread. A fruity salad called an ensalada de Noche Buena is often served as a prelude and contrast to these more intensely flavored foods.

Authentic foods like tamales are easy to make in large batches.
Authentic foods like tamales are easy to make in large batches.

Another common component of traditional Mexican food for Christmas is seafood. In particular, cooks may want to purchase cod and shrimp, as they are fixtures in two common Mexican Christmas dishes: bacalao a la vizcaina and romeritos. Christmas seafood dishes like these are often dried, salted, and spruced up with additional ingredients like potatoes and peppers.

Desserts are a staple of many regional Christmas celebrations, and Mexican food for Christmas is no exception. Many of these dishes require baking and an attendant oven-watcher, such as the conclusive Mexican Christmas dessert rosca de Reyes. This bread dish includes many of the traditional Mexican Christmas cooking features, including spice enhancements, sweet glazes, and the inclusion of religious figurines that reflect the spirit and tradition of the season.

Sweetness is also the guiding feature of many Mexican Christmas drinks. In particular, rich chocolate should be sought, as it is the centerpiece of the popular hot chocolate caliente drink and also an important historical culinary component of Mexican culture. Peppermints and whipping cream serve as ideal complements to this extra-sweet Mexican favorite. A boiled fruit punch consisting of sugar cane, nuts, cinnamon, and alcohol is also popular.

Certain foods and ingredients are almost synonymous with Mexican culture, and as such traditional Mexican food for Christmas may not quite be complete without them. Mexico has introduced the world to many now-popular ingredients, such as tomatoes, peanuts, and beans. These ingredients can add some Mexican flavor to a traditional dish. In addition, skilled tortilla making, using another Mexican fixture, corn flour, can help produce traditional Mexican favorites like tamales. For making tortillas, cooks should focus on precision: precisely measuring the water and corn meal balance and finding the right temperature for the griddle or skillet used to cook the tortillas.

Tradition is infused into making Mexican food for Christmas, so all cultural celebrations surrounding the actual eating should be honored and respected. A traditional Mexican Christmas celebration can often span several weeks, with several family and community-oriented events. Reading and reenacting spiritual passages, singing and dancing, and partaking in popular festivities like piƱata-breaking and displaying poinsettia flowers are conducive to creating the proper atmosphere for Mexican Christmas food preparations.

Keeping the large nature of a Mexican Christmas in mind, individuals should create meals with quantity and diversity. Large portions are advisable, as Mexican Christmas gatherings tend to have a sizable number of guests. Since individuals are unique in their culinary tastes, offering some alternative dishes to each course is recommended as well.

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