Though many outside of Mexico do celebrate Cinco de Mayo, it is specially celebrated in one particular city in Mexico—Puebla. It’s often a misconception that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s independence day, but the day actually marks the country’s victory over the French in 1862 at the Battle of Puebla, which is why the town is known to have one of the most memorable Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
Typically, there is a citywide parade, and the people of Puebla perform historical reenactments of the battle, eat delicious food, watch and join in traditional dances, and listen as music fills the streets.
If you’re celebrating from home instead of on a cruise to Mexico, don’t fret. We’ve rounded up a few traditions and favorites, think your favorite homemade mole, a margarita (or paloma) and a dance to learn, so you can celebrate.
Here’s how you can enjoy some authentic Mexican eats, drinks and activities at home.
A meal to cook…
History: Though origin stories vary, one story says that mole poblano originated in Puebla, Mexico in the 18th century. Legend has it that nuns from a local convent in the Santa Rosa district caught wind that the archbishop was coming for a visit and, in a frenzy, gathered everything they had on hand (ingredients like chiles, spices, nuts, day-old bread and chocolate) to cook something that would appease him. He loved what turned out to be a saucy concoction, which they poured over turkey at the time. Now, this mole sauce is poured over chicken and considered the national dish for holidays and feasts across the country—including Cinco de Mayo.
How to make it: Mole sauce requires about 20 different ingredients, including peppers, seasonings, almonds, peanuts and chocolate. While the chicken is fairly simple to make, preparing the sauce requires time to toast, grind and simmer—perfect for a full day of celebrations.
Find the recipe here.
A drink to mix…
History: While many consider the margarita to be the cocktail of Mexico, the paloma is actually Mexico’s most popular alcoholic beverage. The cocktail’s backstory isn’t clear, but some say it was invented by Don Javier Delgado Corona, the original owner and bartender of La Capilla in Tequila, Mexico, and named after “La Paloma,” a Mexican folk song dating back to the mid-1800s. While it may be similar to a margarita in that its base is tequila, those celebrating Cinco de Mayo traditionally will pick a paloma over its tequila sister. We would be remiss not to mention another favorite of ours though: the michelada. You can’t go wrong with either.
How to make it: Mixing a paloma is easy. All you’ll need is tequila, grapefruit juice, lime, agave nectar and soda water. After you’ve gathered your goods, a cocktail shaker can do the rest. The paloma is blissfully refreshing and will pair great with any and all Cinco de Mayo festivities.
Find the recipe here.
Activities to do…
For kids: Piñata party
History: The original Mexican piñata, said to have been brought over by Spanish missionaries, had a religious meaning. It had seven points symbolizing the seven deadly sins, and the stick used to break the piñata represented love, which was thought to destroy those sins. The candies and treats inside represented forgiveness. This seven-point form has since expanded to include other forms, like cows, buffalos, oxen and all sorts of popular figures. Piñatas are now considered a fun tradition for special celebrations.
How to celebrate: Fill a piñata with cookies (yes, that’s right, cookies) and treats then let the kids take a swing, just like they do in Puebla after the Cinco de Mayo parade. Adults are welcome to have a go at it, too—after all, who doesn’t love holiday sweets?
You can buy a piñata online here or at any local party store.
For adults: Learn a traditional Mexican dance
History: They say dance was once used to appease the Mayan and Aztec gods. Now, popular Mexican dances mix Indigenous, European and African influences. The concheros dance, a ritual that dates to the pre-Columbian era, is one of the country’s many traditional dances you’ll see on the streets in celebration of Cinco de Mayo.
How to learn: With many dances to choose from, you won’t be hard-pressed to find one that you’ll have fun learning (maybe one even worthy of a TikTok video). Though when it comes to notoriety, the jarabe tapatio may be the most well-known. You’ll probably recognize the jarabe tapatio, or Mexican hat dance in English, from the point when the steps revolve around a sombrero placed in the center of the group. Whichever dance you choose, play the part by putting on your best threads and pumping some traditional Mexican tunes—that’s half the fun!
You can choose your dance here and check out YouTube for a quick lesson.
For the whole family: Watch a movie
What to watch: Coco, a family-friendly animated film, is about the story of a young Mexican boy named Miguel. He dreams of becoming a musician, but his family has placed a ban on music for generations. Miguel somehow enters the “Land of the Dead” and learns about the mystery of his family’s past, and thus, some Mexican history in the process.
You can watch Coco here.
When you’re ready to cruise to Mexico and see some of these traditions in real-time, head here to see how Royal Caribbean can take you there.