How to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at Home

Lauren Hill

Senior Contributor

Each year, Cinco de Mayo—literally translating to the fifth of May—brings people together in celebration across Mexico, the United States and further afield. What has now become a day for revelling in Mexican food, drink, music and decoration mark the anniversary of Mexico’s 1862 victory over France in the Battle of Puebla. Despite not actually signifying the end of the country’s fight, this victory became a symbol of Mexico’s resistance to foreign domination.

Celebrations across Mexico

Puebla itself marks this event’s anniversary with re-enactments of the battle, a parade of mariachi music, costume, elaborate floats and dancing, and other celebratory elements such as street tacos, fireworks and piñatas. This is a city that’s become known across the world for its colonial architecture, UNESCO World Heritage status and remarkably rich cuisine. It’s said that the city’s most famous dish mole poblano was first made in the Santa Rosa convent of Puebla in the late seventeenth century. While Puebla is known to host Mexico’s largest celebration, other parts of the country also mark the occasion, including Mexico City where a Cinco de Mayo parade unfolds with re-enactments, food and drink.

Celebrating in the United States

Cinco de Mayo was first marked in the United States in 1863 when California held festivities to show solidarity for Mexico’s resistance against French rule. Now, Cinco de Mayo is seen as a day to celebrate Mexican food, drink and culture throughout the United States. Denver ordinarily holds the two-day Cinco de Mayo Celebrate Culture Festival at this time of year, while the Portland Cinco de Mayo Fiesta takes place in Oregon. To see how California celebrates the occasion, find your way to The Mission neighbourhood of San Francisco. Despite having events cancelled for 2020, wherever and however this occasion is being celebrated, it’s widely considered a time to learn about Mexican traditions and enjoy Mexico-inspired revelry. 

How to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at Home

While much of the world stay in lockdown, Cinco de Mayo festivities are coming inside as people swap street parties for smaller celebrations in their homes. Here are some of the ways you can create your own Cinco de Mayo revelry.

What to Eat

When celebrations are taking place at home, Cinco de Mayo focuses largely on the food. Try cooking up Puebla’s most famous dish mole poblano or try another of the city’s famous street foods, chalupas, in which tortillas are topped with salsa, shredded meat, onion and cheese. While chiles en nogada is typically made for Mexico’s Independence Day (September 16th), this poblano pepper stuffed with picadillo and topped with walnut sauce, pomegranate seeds and parsley hold a place as one of Puebla’s most important specialities, making it another apt choice for the day.

Alternatively, tuck into what is perhaps the most popular dish at this time by preparing authentically Mexican tacos. For inventive taco recipes and other authentically Mexican dishes, take culinary inspiration from some of the country’s best-known chefs.

You can find out how to make several of the country’s most popular dishes by watching the online MasterClass of the chef behind Contramar in Mexico City and Cala in San Francisco, Gabriela Cámara. Throughout these lessons, the chef starts by giving insight into the historic and cultural importance of corn in Mexico before taking you through recipes like tuna tostadas and golden quesadillas.

Standout Mexican Cookbooks

To expand your culinary repertoire, pick up one of this year’s standout Mexican cookbooks. Get My Mexico City Kitchen: Recipes and Convictions by Gabriela Cámara and Malena Watrous for 150 of Cámara’s contemporary Mexican recipes; delve into the pages of Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen to try out the recipes of the well-known San Francisco-based Mexican restaurant it derives from; and add Mexico: The Cookbook to your collection for over 700 recipes by the acclaimed chef Margarita Carrillo Arronte.

What to Drink

Cocktails, both alcoholic and virgin, are the typical drink of choice for Cinco de Mayo. Try mixing variations of tequila and Mezcal favourites—most famously, the margarita combining tequila with triple sec and lime juice—or experiment with their zesty non-alcoholic versions bringing together ingredients like ginger ale, lime juice, lemon juice and agave syrup in a margarita glass with plenty of ice.

Several cocktails, including the margarita and other sours, are the topic of each mixology lesson by renowned cocktail creators Lynette Marrero and Ryan Chetiyawardana on MasterClass.

Finishing Touches

If you’re planning to make more of the day’s celebrations, festoon your home with typical Cinco de Mayo decorations like Picado streamers and a piñata, or simply add colour to your dining table through home accessories and tableware. Add the finishing touch by selecting some of your favourite Mexican music.

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