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Cinco de Mayo

Start your party planning – the Mexican celebration of Cinco de Mayo is a perfect reason for a mid-spring fiesta!

History of the holiday

Cinco De Mayo quite literally means the “5th of May”. This regional Mexican holiday marks the 1862 victory of the Mexican militia over the French in the Battle of Puebla. People often mistake the holiday for Mexico’s Independence Day (September 16th), but it’s a completely different occasion.

For the most part, the Cinco de Mayo holiday is celebrated in the Mexican state of Puebla and its capital city of the same name. In other parts of the country, it’s not as widely acknowledged. However, for Mexicans and those with Mexican heritage who live throughout Canada and the United States, it’s a good reason to throw a party!

Traditions and celebrations

In Mexico, the festivities generally take place in Puebla, the location of the battle that is commemorated. In addition to attending festive parades and re-enactments of the battle, people like to dress up. Patriotic clothing and accessories are everywhere, and partygoers nibble on traditional foods.

In other parts of North America, the day is often celebrated with a Mexican-themed party:

  • The red, green and white of the country’s flag are used in food, décor and clothing choices
  • Mexican folk music or even Mariachi bands set the mood
  • Decorations such as colourful flowers, streamers, and balloons are put up
  • Of course, a feast consisting of traditional Mexican dishes such as tacos, enchiladas and guacamole is the highlight

Around the world:

  • The city of Vancouver honours the day with a skydiving event!
  • Interestingly, the Cayman Islands celebrates the occasion with an air guitar competition
  • On the island of Malta, people drink Mexican beer on Cinco de Mayo

Serve a Mexican feast

Mexican food is comforting and packs a punch! Keep the party casual by serving colourful, festive dishes that guests can serve themselves:

  • Set up a buffet with an array of filling dishes such as enchiladas, burritos and homemade salsa with tortilla chips
  • Create a taco bar, complete with different fillings, cheeses and toppings – you can even let guests choose whether they would like crispy or soft taco shells
  • Experiment with different salsas, sauces and guacamoles. Use Margarita glasses as serving vessels for room temperatures sauces and reserve gravy boats for the hotter ones. Don’t forget to label sauces so that people know which ones are spicy!
  • For beverages, a fun touch is to have a Margarita station for frozen or regular versions of the drink. Pitchers of ruby red Sangria, brimming with fruit, are also a perfect choice. And of course, tequila and Mexican beer should also be offered.
  • Nondrinkers will enjoy mock Margaritas, made from lime concentrate mixed with orange and grapefruit juices, and mock Sangria, which contains cranberry and orange juices instead of the red wine.

Keep your party colourful

Mexican-themed parties are all about colour and having fun:

  • Decorate, dress and serve food in shades of green, white and red – the colours of the Mexican flag
  • Wear a sombrero and have extras on hand for your guests to wear
  • Use groups of cheery sunflowers as centrepieces, or place single blooms in old jars on buffet tables
  • Decorate your tables with rustic textures, such as woven place mats, and combine with dishes in white and bright, contrasting colours
  • Place fun items such as rhuma shakers and maracas around the room for guests to have fun with
  • A great idea for a takeaway gift is to send guests home with small, adorable cactus plants and a jar of homemade salsa

Plan fun activites

People will be talking about your party for months if you give them creative and enjoyable things to do, such as:

Get them tasting!

Have everyone bring his or her special homemade salsa or guacamole and hold a competition worthy of a country fair. The judges can pick the winner through a blind taste testing and voting process. Winners receive a bottle of tequila or a Mexican-themed item of your choice.

Get them swinging!

Piñatas aren’t just for kids – adults find them a lot of fun too. Just ensure the piñata-breaking is over and done with before too much alcohol is consumed.

Get them speaking Spanish!

When guests arrive, give each person a strip of paper with half of a sentence in Spanish on it. The goal is for guests to chat to other partygoers and determine who has the other part of the sentence. Then, the duo has to translate the phrase for the entire group. The first team with a matched and translated sentence wins a prize. It’s often very amusing when sentences are mismatched and mistranslated!

Get them dancing!

Hire a dance instructor for the evening to teach everyone how to samba, salsa, meringue and rumba. It’s a great way to wear off some of those tacos.

Festive appetizers guests will love

Perfect for adding a touch of drama to your buffet table, these appetizers are exceptionally easy to prepare. The homemade guacamole is creamy, refreshing and delicious and can also be enjoyed in a sandwich or wrap with grilled chicken.

See the recipe for Mexican Guacamole and Grilled Tortillas