Christmas is a time to get together with family and friends to celebrate, and food plays a big part in any Mexican Christmas celebration. In Mexico it is customary to have a family dinner late on Christmas Eve (Noche Buena). Here are some of the foods that are traditionally eaten at Christmastime in Mexico, either at Christmas Eve dinner or during the festivities leading up to Christmas such as las posadas. If you’re in Mexico for Christmas, be sure to sample these festive dishes, and if you can’t be in Mexico for the holidays, you can add a Mexican touch to your celebration by including some of these foods.
Ensalada de Noche Buena
The combination of colors of the Mexican Christmas Salad make it particularly festive. This salad usually contains lettuce and beets, but other ingredients vary according to location and the chef’s preference, and may include apple, carrot, orange, pineapple, jicama, pecans or peanuts, and pomegranate seeds as a garnish. Mexican Christmas Salad is served at Christmas Eve dinner.
Tamales are cornmeal dumplings which may be prepared with a variety of different fillings. They are wrapped in corn husks (or occasionally banana leaves), and steamed. Because tamales are time consuming to prepare, they are a special holiday food – made a few times throughout the year, in large batches.
Mexican hot fruit punch is made with tejocotes (Mexican hawthorn), which look like crab apples but have large pits and a unique flavor. Guavas, apples, and other fruit are added and the drink is flavored with cinnamon and sweetened with piloncillo. This is a wonderfully warming beverage, whether taken with or without piquete (a splash of alcohol).
Recipe Ponche Navideño
- 10 quarts drinking water + 2 quarts hot water
- 8-10 tejocotes
- 2 tamarind pods
- 6 guavas
- 3 lbs sugar cane (substitute piloncillo if needed)
- 1/2 lb prunes
- 1 cup green apples, peeled and chopped
- 2 pears, peeled and chopped
- 4 large oranges (or 6 medium ones) juiced
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 8oz walnuts, chopped
- 2 lbs piloncillo
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 pint of Brandy (optional)
Soak the tamarind and the tejocotes in hot water for about an hour.
Bring the 10 quarts of water to a boil in a very large pot, then reduce to a slow simmer.
Remove the tamarind and the tejocotes from the soaking water and discard the water. Remove the brittle shells from the tamarind, and squeeze out the seeds from the pulp. Cut the tejocotes into quarters, removing the skin. Add the tamarind pulp and the tejocotes to the simmering water.
Cut the guavas into quarters, and add them in. Chop or slice the sugar cane into chunks (remove the outer skin if it has it) and add them in. Add in the remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 hour. Remove cinnamon sticks before serving. Makes approximately 15 servings. Use a large ladle and serve each cup with the chunks of fruit.