If you are looking to escape a harsh winter this Christmas, San Miguel de Allende is the place to do it. Unlike many cities that commercialize Christmas, this is a city that focuses on the religious and cultural aspects of what the holiday is truly about. But there are still plenty of ways to have fun and enjoy the season.
Read on to find out more about what you can do when you visit.
Walk Through the City
San Miguel de Allende is not only lovely to visit during Christmastime, it is beautiful year round. As the city where Spanish got rich finding sliver mines in the mountains, there is plenty left over from those halcyon days including baroque mansions, cobblestone streets and a stately town plaza. In fact, much of the town is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Full of scenic charm, you can have a great time just walking around the city. It will be even lovelier when lit up with Christmas lights. And the fact that temperatures stay in the mid-70’s, even during the winter, will make your walk extra pleasant.
Enjoy a Posada
Posadas take place every night in different neighborhoods during the nine nights leading up to Christmas. These are candlelight processions that include musicians, live animals and children dressed up as Joseph and Mary trekking though the desert. Visitors and locals join in the parade singing and carrying candles and lanterns. Hot drinks are often served.
While there are many posadas that take place throughout the city, perhaps the most well known and well organized one is hosted by Bellas Artes art school.
The school is known for its flamboyant architecture and is a sight to see in and of itself. It was built in the mid-1700’s as a cloister for a convent and it is still a great way to escape from the busy streets below. Siqueiros artwork lines the stairs and there are plenty of other pieces on display. It also has a nice café and peaceful gardens.
At Christmastime, Bellas Artes hosts its own traditional pastorela, a reenactment of the shepherds on their journey to see baby Jesus. The story focuses on the challenges they face and plotlines are often funny and ironic.
While the posadas are lovely, there are plenty of other events that take place in San Miguel de Allende at Christmastime. Here are a few that are worth checking out.
Feast of Virgin Guadalupe: The Virgin of Guadalupe is the patron Saint of the country and the Empress of Latin America. Late on the evening of December 11 (or a date nearby) a large banner of the saint is hung and mariachis gather to serenade her with Las Mananitas, a Mexican Happy Birthday song.
The next day, children march in a procession dressed as Mexican farmers with pictures of the Virgin printed on their ponchos. There is also a float of the virgin in the parade. Fireworks are often lit afterwards announcing the official start of the Christmas season.
Festival de San Miguel: This festival takes place over the last two weeks of December. It is a chamber music festival that has been recognized by the government as the country’s best classical music festival. You can buy tickets for the event but select concerts are free and open to the public. There are also performances that are especially for children.
Christmas Eve: In San Miguel de Allende, Christmas Eve is even more important than Christmas Day. During the day, a life sized manger is set up in the center of Jardin along with live animals. The last pasada passes through. Then everyone goes home to get ready for a party that goes well into the night.
Families go to midnight mass and then come home to a feast that features traditional dishes like the salt cod dish, bacalo. After the feast, everyone opens their gifts but the children’s main presents are saved for Three Kings Day, Day of the Epiphany, which occurs on January 6.
Christmas Day: Christmas Day is more low key than Christmas Eve but it is still a celebratory occasion. People go to church, then gather in the streets to socialize and meet friends.
Dia de Los Santos Inocentes (Day of Holy Innocents): In San Miguel de Allende, the Christmas fun does not end on Christmas Day. Dec. 28 marks that day when Herod sent out his troops to murder all male children under the age of 2 in hopes to capture the newborn king born in Bethlehem.
Although it was a bloody day, Jesus’ escape is a cause for celebration. As such, people get together and play games and tell jokes. It’s quite similar to April Fool’s Day. If people fall for a practical joke, “Inocente, Inocente” is cried out.
New Year’s Eve: Just like the rest of the world, San Miguel de Allende parties big on New Year’s Eve. Bars are packed and there are plenty of firework displays at midnight. The people also have a tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight, each one meant to bring luck during the 12 months of the year.
Mexico is known as a place to buy unique knick knacks and souvenirs that are representative of the country’s culture. San Miguel de Allende is no exception. The Mercado de Artesanias is a great place to buy jewelry, ceramics, rugs and home décor.
The city is also known for selling food and produce at great prices. Tianguis de los Martes and Mercado San Juan de Dios are two terrific locations for buying delicious edible items.
If you are looking for a great holiday getaway, San Miguel de Allende is the place to go. With so much to see and do, you are sure to have a terrific Christmas when you visit.