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“A breathtaking view of the Rock of Gibraltar.”
— Christine Tabirara, Retired, Building and Safety, and Vernon Tabirara, Retired, Public Works/Engineering
Christmas Season in Mexico City
Letter From Mexico
With the holidays fast approaching, what better place could be visited for colorful Christmas gifts than Mexico City? Renting a rooftop apartment on the western edge of Mexico City, in the magical neighborhood of Roma Norte, made it very convenient for shopping and visiting historic sights, local attractions, and the surrounding countryside.
The Roma Norte District is full of gracious neoclassical mansions converted into museums, boutique hotels and top-class restaurants – it also has a great bar scene. Every corner along its tree-lined boulevards seems to have a picturesque cafe or an incredible street food stall, making it the perfect place for first-time visitors to explore.
In 1902, it was built on land owned by British circus owner Edward Walter Orrin. He was joined by the famous clown Ricardo Bell, American engineer Cassius Clay Lamm, and the Mexican politician Pedro Lascuráin. Their idea was to create a Porfirian-style neighborhood (a bit of Paris in the Puebla) for wealthy Mexicans to escape the city. Interestingly, most of the streets are named after states and cities in which the Orrin Circus performed.
After the Second World War, Roma Norte slid into decline. The 1950s attracted a string of beatnik artists and writers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. William S. Burroughs also made his way there, but it did not end well for him as he fatally shot his second wife, Joan Vollmer, while allegedly reenacting a William Tell test of marksmanship (apple on the head) above the Bounty Bar below. This is now a small insignificant Mexican restaurant called Krika’s.
Rocked by the 1985 earthquake, Roma Norte was rebuilt and gentrified but still managed to uphold its avant-garde spirit. Today many ex-pats and locals with well-groomed dogs in tow stroll along the picturesque leafy streets or around a replica of Michelangelo’s David in Plaza Rio de Janeiro. Between the various local mercados, there is a great selection of colorful gifts to bring home; there is even a market run by an all-women collective selling vegan-based foods and save-the-planet gifts.
Amid Mexico City’s urban sprawl, there are lovely architectural landmarks and a multitude of cultural treasures, from artist Frida Kahlo’s childhood home in Coyoacan to the dazzling murals in the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Colegio de San Ildefonso.
There is no need to rent a car as it is possible to go everywhere by Uber and at a ridiculously low price — for example, a day trip to visit the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan should cost no more than $60 for a car and driver all day.
Christmas in Mexico City and most of Mexico (less likely in places like Cancun or Los Cabos) is a time to be with family. Christmas isn’t just a one-day celebration; it goes on for more than a month starting on Dec. 12 with Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe (the Virgin of Guadalupe Day) and ending on Feb. 2 on Día de la Candelaria.
Dec. 16 marks the start of the nightly festival of Las Posadas, which symbolizes the Biblical story of Joseph and Mary traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the Roman census. On Dec. 24, most stores are open only until lunchtime, as this is the day when families gather to have dinner together. Celebrations last well into the evening, and you can expect to hear a few fireworks around the city well into the wee hours of the morning.
On Christmas Day, most restaurants, and everything else for that matter, are closed. You may find a few places in central neighborhoods like Roma Norte, Condesa and Polanco open but with shorter hours, as Christmas Day is mostly for sleeping off your festivities the night before. On Dec. 26, everything is back open as usual.
The buildings around the Zocalo are decorated as is the Paseo de la Reforma with bright red Noche Buena (poinsettias). Inside the main cathedral, there is a very large nativity, with an enormous statue of baby Jesus as well as a few suspect-looking animals!
Jamaica market is the place to go for Christmas goodies and huge piñatas. Urban legend has it that the Spanish used piñatas to help convert the natives to Catholicism. The seven-pointed stars represent the seven deadly sins, so breaking that piñata will remove all sins from your life!
Weather in Mexico City at Christmas time is sunny and crisp at around 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, but it drops a fair bit at night. The sun is so warm during the day that jeans and a T-shirt will suffice, but always be sure to have a light jacket handy.
Tip: Want to say Merry Christmas to a Mexican friend? Say “Feliz Navidad.”
Do not procrastinate any more — start your bucket list now.
Happy Holidays, one and all!