Day of the Three Kings, January 6. End of the Christmas holiday, celebrated in families by gifts to the children, hot chocolate, and a special cake. Hidden in the cake is small statue of Jesus (rosca). If your piece of cake contains the statue, you give the party on February 2.
Day of Candelaria, February 2. Parties in the evenings given by the person that found the Jesus statue in the cake on the Day of the Three Kings. During the day people carry elaborately dressed dolls representing the baby Jesus. The dolls are then taken to the churches to be blessed.
Carnival, Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Largest celebration is in the town of San Martin Tilcajete, 14 miles from Oaxaca. Celebration begins in the afternoon continuing into the evening, including dancing, music, food, mescal and fireworks. Young mischievous men paint themselves in black and roam the streets.
Birthday of Benito Juarez, March 21. National holiday. Juarez was born near the city of Oaxaca. The President of Mexico often visits (and chaos ensues).
Semana Santa (Holy Week), Week before Easter. Many events, starting with Palm Sunday and continuing through Easter Sunday. The biggest event is the Silent Procession on Good Friday, usually going down the Alcala in the late afternoon. The week after Easter is also a holiday and many schools and businesses will be closed for all or part of this time. Easter Day itself is very quiet with many stores and restaurants closed. We have heard that this is a good time to visit Mexico City, as many people there leave the city for the beaches.
Lunes Santos (Holy Monday), Day after Easter, celebrated in Teotitlan. Throughout the town are small altars built with the carpets made in Teotitlan. There is a long procession throughout the town, starting with Mass at 7:00 am and continuing through most of the day.
Day of the Holy Cross, May 3. Small crosses are placed on buildings under construction, day of feasting for anyone in the construction business.
Cinco de Mayo, May 5, National Holiday. A few celebrations in Oaxaca.
Guelaguetza – last two weeks in July, with a show at the Guelaguetza auditorium on the last two Mondays of the month. Guelaguetza is a huge celebration of the various ethnic groups in the state of Oaxaca. Large parades on the Saturdays before the shows. Many music and dance events throughout the city. Large sale of artisan crafts in Llano Park from villages throughout the state. Many villages hold smaller celebrations as well.
Independence Day, September 16, National Holiday. Begins with celebration of the grito on the night of Sept. 15 at 11:00 pm in the Zocalo, where the Governor reenacts the call for independence by Father Hidalgo in 1810. There are parades and rodeos on the 16th.
Oaxaca FilmFest – every October, films from around the world are shown at various venues around the city (canceled for 2017 because several theaters are closed for repairs from the earthquakes).
Day of the Dead, October 31-November 4. Families build altars honoring their ancestors and clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones. Different villages have various customs and celebrate on different days. Popular tours around Oaxaca include the panteones (cemeteries) in Xoxocotlan, Atzompa, San Antonino, and San Felipe del Agua. In the Centro, check out the markets for altar-building materials and the Panteon General on Vasconcelos and Refugio.
Feast of the Virgins, Juquila, December 9, primarily celebrated town of Juquila, about two hours south of Oaxaca. The saint is especially dear to taxi drivers and protector of those faced with great difficulties. People pilgrimage to Juquila for the two weeks prior to December 9. Smaller celebrations throughout the city of Oaxaca.
Feast of the Virgins, Guadalupe, December 11-12, Church of the Virgin of Guadalupe. December 12th is a national holiday. Activities take place in the church or in the north side of Llano Park. Activities begin on December 11 and continue through the night of the 12th, with photos of children, food, music, dancing, ending in large fireworks display on the 12th.
Feast of the Virgins, Soledad, December 18, Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Soledad. One of the most elaborate festivals in Oaxaca, including religious activities, carnival, dancing, fireworks at the Danza Park next to the church.
Posadas, December 16-24. Re-enactment of Mary and Joseph seeking a place to stay in Bethlehem. Groups of people, usually from a church or neighborhood, go from house to house asking for shelter and then end with a big party at the final house. After a short ritual and singing, there are piñatas, food, chocolate and mezcal.
Night of the Radishes – December 23, Zocalo. Groups compete making carved radish scenes. Some are extraordinarily complex. Very popular, get in line in the late afternoon, 4-5 pm.
Calendas (Processions) at the Zocalo, December 24. Various church and community groups parade around the Zocalo, with floats, beautiful costumes, dancing and fireworks.
Saints Day Festivals – various dates. Villages celebrate their patron saint’s day throughout the year, e.g. San Martin Tilcajete celebrates November 11, the day of San Martin, with processions, dancing, fireworks, food, etc. For specific saints days, check out the MexConnect website.