A look at Mexican Christmas Food and Traditions
Christmas is a time when we gather with friends and family to give thanks for our blessings and reconnect, usually around the dinner table and while observing annual traditions kept alive from generation to generation. With the holiday season just ahead, we take a look at Mexican Christmas traditions and traditional Mexican holiday dishes. Fun Holiday Traditions to consider incorporating into your next family gathering.
The Christmas season in Mexico runs from early December (starting with celebrations in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint) to Día de los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings’ Day) on January 5th with one last related celebration, Candlemas, on February 2nd. If you were to visit homes in Mexico, you’d find an abundance of poinsettias used as decoration. A modern Mexican legend says that the poinsettia (native to the region) was once a weed that miraculously turned into a beautiful flower so that a child could present it to the infant Jesus.
Christmas tree production is now a large industry in Mexico, although small artificial trees or branches from trees or shrubs can be substituted. Traditional and contemporary Christmas music fills homes and public spaces. Traditional music includes Christmas carol-like villancicos with popular songs being "Los pastores a Belén", "Riu, riu, chiu: El lobo rabioso" and "Los peces en el río". Spanish covers of foreign music, such as Jingle Bells, are common.
Children get their picture taken with Santa Claus, but the Wise Men are also gift-givers. Nativity stands can get pretty elaborate in Mexican cities.
The Mexican celebration of Christmas is called “las posadas” and begins on December 16. Like many seasonal traditions, this one involves the story of the Nativity. “Posadas” is Spanish for “lodgings,” so it is fitting that it commemorates Mary and Joseph’s difficult trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of a warm place to spend the night. Mary’s pregnancy with the Christ child is central to the story. A group representing the Holy Family stands outside a series of houses, singing songs, and asking for lodging. They are refused time and again until the group reaches the designated house. Finally, the travelers are granted entry, then prayer and song continue inside the home. Festive foods are, of course, shared, and the night ends with a piñata in the shape of a star. The continues nightly in a different house until Christmas Eve, which usually features a midnight Mass. After dinner, children play with sparklers, called “Luces de Belen” (Bethlehem lights).
Now, the eats…
Pozole is a pork or chicken soup seasoned with garlic and peppers then garnished with lettuce, cabbage, oregano, avocado, and lime – a classic dish for cold winter nights. Roasted turkey stuffed with cornbread or vegetables, seasoned with salt and pepper before serving with gravy is called Pavo.
Rosca de Reyes is an oval-shaped cake eaten 12 days after Christmas, usually with coffee or hot chocolate, with a small plastic baby Jesus inside representing Epiphany Day or the day that the Wise Men appeared. The person who finds the plastic figure in their piece of cake is traditionally supposed to throw a party at their house to celebrate Candlemas Day on Feb. 2.
Ensalada de Noche Buena is a fruity Christmas Eve Salad. A tripe and hominy soup called Menudo is often made on Christmas Eve (aka “Noche Buena”) as cooking it can take as much as five hours. Bacalao, a cod dish, may be paired with Romeritos, tiny green leaves that are often mixed with mole and potatoes.
Tamales sometimes replace the turkey or bacalao. Pork tamales with dried peppers sauce are very common, as are chicken and vegetable tamales. Amigo offers the traditional pork tamale, a savory pork filling in steamed in cornmeal casings topped with sauce and sprinkled with cheese.
Ponche is a drink made of sugar cane, prunes, apples and the fruit of the tejocotes (a hawthorn bush). Adults prepare ponche with tequila or rum mixed in it. A holiday dessert may be Pineapple upside down cake.
For many, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without Eggnog, and there’s a uniquely Mexican beverage called the Rompope which uses milk, egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and Tequila or Mezcal. The different flavorings are nutmeg, vanilla, almonds, pecans, orange blossom water, clove, pine nuts, and even pistachios.
If you’d like to sample some foods traditionally served in Mexico during the holiday season, visit your local Amigo Mexican Restaurant for lunch or dinner or stop in for happy hour drinks! Your local Amigo makes a great place to gather with your family and friends to celebrate the holidays this year.
A staple at our Chattanooga Happy Hour – or any Mexican bar or restaurant, really -- is some variation of cocktail with Tequila as the main ingredient (margarita, Bloody Mary, Tequila Sunrise, etc.). We celebrate this great spirit as we near National Tequila Day on July 24th.
Another choice gaining ground in America bars and restaurants, perhaps confused with Tequila, is Mezcal.
Both drinks are made from the harvested core of the agave plant, otherwise known as the “piña”, but the two spirits are characterized by more differences than similarities. Think of it the same way in which bourbon and scotch share the category as whiskey, yet you may love one and hate the other because of variations in taste.
Geography also matters. Just as Bourbon is a whiskey associated with Kentucky (where 95 percent of it is made) and Scotch whiskey was originally made in Scotland, tequila and mezcal come from different regions of Mexico. There’s a town in Jalisco named Tequila. Spirits Writer John McEvoy explained to Food & Wine magazine that tequila is mass produced in 5 places, while mezcal is a product made in nine parts of the country.
Another spirits writer, Chris Tunstall, said the most common agave used for mezcal are tobalá, tobaziche, tepeztate, arroqueño and espadín.
The differences don’t stop there. The two drinks are distilled differently.
Industrial ovens steam the agave before distillation in copper pots to create tequila. Lava rock pits dug into the ground and filled with wood and charcoal typically cook the agave to create mezcal with distilling in clay pots to produce a characteristic smokiness.
After distillation, both drinks end up in oak barrels for varying periods of aging, the labels as different varieties based on the length of aging. Tequila, for example, comes in three varieties: blanco (silver or plato/0-2 months), reposado (2-12 months) and anejo (1-3 years). Mezcal is also grouped as joven (blanco or abacado/0-2 months), reposado (2-12 months) and anejo (at least one year).
We don’t expect anyone to come up to the bar and order an “abacado mezcal”, but hey, at least you can now that you know what it is and say it if you want to impress your date.
Fun fact: The term mezcal used to refer to any spirit distilled from fermented agave, but then the government got involved and changed the phrase from a category of spirits to something more specific.
“Tequila was originally called vino de mezcal de tequila — or the wine of the mezcal from the community of Tequila (in Jalisco),” explained Lou Bank of SACRED Agave, a nonprofit that promotes the rural Mexican communities where mezcal is made. The word mezcal comes from the Nahuatl words metl and ixcalli, which taken together mean "oven cooked agave."
Another fun fact about Mezcal: Some producers avoid the variation of the word spelled “mescal” to avoid being mistaken for some derivative of mescaline.
Some of the more commonly available brands of mezcal available in the US include Del Maguey Chichicapa, El Jolgorio Tepeztate, Rey Campero Tepextate, Ilegal Mezcal Reposado, Mezcal Vago Olla De Barro Tobala, Montelobos Mezcal Joven.
If you’re now torn between ordering tequila or mezcal in your margarita, we suggesting ordering one of both. Then more. You know, to be sure you can tell a difference!
Besides, who’s counting when you can get 2 for 1 Margaritas during happy hour in Chattanooga? Call your favorite Amigos location for specific times & prices.
Copyright: alpaksoy / 123RF Stock Photo
It’s May, so that diet you vowed to follow in January may be long forgotten by now. If not, good for you! For others, keeping things like sugar in moderation is a must if eating out with diabetes or similar conditions. For those of you wanting to eat out lighter fare so you can look good on the beach this summer or feel healthier, we offer this guide to how to eat healthy at Chattanooga Mexican Restaurants.
Most people don’t ordinarily think of Mexican as healthy because, sure, those foods fried or covered in cheese or creamy sauces taste sinfully good. But think about all of the fresh vegetables and fruit. When a group of friends tries to figure out where they can meet up for dinner that will work for the vegetarian in the bunch, Mexican restaurants offer some of the more appealing options for everyone. You can eat healthy without feeling like you’re eating cardboard because Mexican food is packed with flavor! Amigos even offers up a dedicated Vegetarian menu that lets you create your own veggie plate!
Your nutritionist would be proud of you for ordering the Veggie Fajitas with sautéed zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, and mushroom. We serve it with three flour tortillas, rice, refried beans and salad with lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, and tomatoes.
The experts say the healthiest Mexican menu options include grilled chicken dishes, which we offer in our tacos, burritos, enchiladas, grilled chimi, la tapatia, Pollo Jalisco, and more. The shredded chicken in our Flautas comes sautéed with bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions. The Carne Asada is another excellent entrée choice including grilled meats.
Other healthier options at a Mexican restaurant could include Tamales, Gazpacho ( a tomato based soup traditionally served cold), grilled seafood-based dishes, salsa and picante sauce, soft tacos with chicken or beef, fish tacos, or chile con carne (minus cheese and chips).
Assembling foods like a chicken fajita yourself gives you greater control of the portions and the ability to add more veggies.
Black beans work great for dieters, low in fat, high in protein and providing plenty of fiber. Pinto beans and grilled vegetables also work great as a substitute for refried beans or white rice. Corn tortillas contain fewer carbs and calories than wheat tortillas. You’ll want to enjoy other foods in moderation, including cheese, chips, sour cream, and nachos. Guacamole adds a similar creaminess to cheese and sour cream but is better for you. Pico de gallo may be available as a substitute for sour cream or melted cheese. Save the deep-fried options for special occasions.
If craving an appetizer, make sure it’s something everyone at the table will share.
Load up on veggies, especially extra lettuce.
Browse the menu on our website before arriving. It’s easier to make healthy choices when you aren’t hungry or distracted by conversations.
You can also control portion sizes and take any part of your meal that you don’t finish to save for left-overs. Remember that beer carbs vary from brand to brand, so choose wisely. Ask your bartender to substitute a piece of fruit in place of sugar and choose tequila on the rocks if you want to avoid the sweets. Or remember that a lighter meal leaves room for margaritas!
Save the dessert as a treat to reward yourself for meeting your goals.
If your attitude about Mexican food is “the hotter the better!”, this article is for you! We’re going to suggest some of the boldest dishes you can find at Chattanooga Mexican Restaurants.
Technically, “spicy” is not a taste. Yes, you heard me right! Spiciness is actually a form of pain, and spicy foods contain chemicals that stimulate the pain receptors in your mouth. Some of those nerves also monitor temperature, which is why spicy foods give off a burning (hot) sensation when we eat them. The same type of reaction causes us to cry when cutting onions. If you’re like us, you know it hurts so good!
A little “pain” can be good for us now and then. Peppers get their spice from something called capsaicin, which aids in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and has also been found to improve circulation and relieve congestion. The trusty taste buds know that spicy foods have a kick, and Mexican food, in particular, has a reputation for being very spicy. We prefer to think of it as “mouthwatering”. Besides, you can cool off with 2 for 1 Margaritas and daily specials on 32 oz draft beers!
Mexican foods contain some of the most spicy ingredients in the world including Jalapeño peppers. We suggest you try the new Jalapeño Bacon Dip, Chiles Toreados with Cebollitas Asadas, or Abuela’s Guacamole for a sampling of the heat to come. Another appetizer, our Amigo Dip, contains cilantro, which is another Mexican staple known to put a stride in your step.
Still looking for an Entrée to Test your Fortitude?
Two grilled chicken enchiladas topped with creamy suiza sauce and served with rice, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream. Substitute Grilled Steak or Grilled Shrimp if that’s how you roll.
We bring the heat by cooking grilled chicken and sautéed onions with our spiciest salsa and famous white cheese sauce. Served with rice, refried beans, and three flour tortillas.
Get ready for our spicy hot marinated strips of grilled steak, sautéed onions and mushrooms served with rice, lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo and three flour tortillas. If you like it hot, it’s sure to hit the spot!
One shredded chicken chimichanga, one tamale and one shredded chicken flauta, topped with creamy suiza sauce and garnished with lettuce, sour cream and mango pineapple sauce.
If you feel like you’ve gone too far, you can cap off your meal with a tasty dessert top of ice cream. See? That didn’t hurt one bit. Be bold. Make lunch and dinner at Chattanooga Mexican Restaurants more than a meal… make it an experience with zesty sauces, spices, and peppers. Contact us online for more information about our restaurant and to view menus for all of our locations.
Copyright: nito500 / 123RF Stock Photo
Forget the cookies and milk, leave Santa the gift the that’s on the top of his list… Amigos! Stand out from the crowd of sugar cookies and leave the big guy a special Christmas treat.
Snow isn’t Santa’s favorite white stuff… queso is! It’s rich, warm, creamy and the perfect midnight snack for Santa. Bonus, we’ve heard his reindeer are huge fans of our fresh baked chips.
Riding in a sleigh and climbing down chimneys is a real workout. Santa needs to refuel for his remaining stops. What better way to prepare than with tacos! The perfect combination of carbs, protein, dairy and vegetables… tacos should be a staple on Santa’s plate.
It’s a proven fact that the big guy loves sweets! He’s tired of cookies though, so instead opt for the soft, sweet, sugary crunch of a churro. And… with 3 scoops of ice cream on top, you can’t go wrong!
Who needs a white Christmas when you can have a frozen one! Margaritas are much tastier than milk, and they will leave Santa with a burst of energy to finish his tasks.
Leave Santa the gift he’d really enjoy this Christmas. Give the gift of great food from Amigo Mexican Restaurant!
Holidays are all about spreading cheer, right? What better way than with our creamy, zesty, and citrusy guac! With over 25 crowd-pleasing entrées featuring our fresh, finger-licking guacamole, here are 7 Amigo Mexican Restaurant top-guac sellers you need to order.
And speaking of guacamole… don’t forget to sign up for our "Guac Around The Christmas Tree" Contest. Enter now for your chance to win a Holiday Mexican Fiesta for 2 that includes chips and salsa, 2 entrees, 2 non-alcoholic beverages, 1 dessert, and guacamole, of course! To enter, click here. Good luck, amigos and Happy Holidays!
Question: What do marigolds, butterflies, and skulls have in common? You guessed it – Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos! Here are 10 fun facts about Dia de los Muertos you should know.
Think you’re a Dia de los Muertos pro? Take on the challenge of completing our crossword puzzle below. And of course, don’t forget to come to Amigo Mexican Restaurant for dinner to celebrate trick or treating. (We know all moms will be treating, with a margarita!)
¡Hola, amigos! Guess what this Saturday is?? It’s one of our favorite holidays of the year! No, not Cinco de Mayo, though we love it too. Okay, we’ll go ahead and give you a hint. It starts with guaca- and ends with -mole. Yep, it’s National Guacamole Day and we couldn’t be more ready! We’re so excited that we’re counting down the days to creamy, chunky, zesty, and savory (all the elements that make up Amigo guac) with a pop-guac quiz. So grab a chip, and let’s dip right in!
*Also, don't forget to stop by an Amigo Mexican Restaurant for a dip of Abuela's Guacamole, made fresh and chunky when you order! We start with a whole avocado and then we add fresh cilantro, tomatoes, onions and a hint of jalapeño just for that extra kick.
Sometimes in life all you need is a warm hug and a warm churro. If your week has been –let’s just say– less than sweet, we have just the fried fix for you! Our ooey, gooey, warm churros provide the ultimate sugar therapy that will melt away almost all your troubles. Still not totally convinced? Here are three reasons to save room for our famous, crispy Mexican pastry.
For more delicious Mexican desserts, try one of these at your local Amigo Mexican Restaurant.
A cheesecake burrito deep-fried and topped with three scoops of vanilla ice cream and strawberries.
Sopapilla With Ice Cream
Indulge yourself with our most popular dessert pastry! The Sopapilla is fried and topped with three scoops of rich vanilla ice cream. Then drizzled with the perfect combination of chocolate and honey, sprinkled with cinnamon.
Flan (Mexican Custard)
A Mexican delicacy. Our flan custard is rich and creamy, drizzled with a delicious caramelized topping.
Fried Ice Cream
Treat yourself to our creamy vanilla ice cream, quickly dipped into the fryer for just the right amount of crispiness. Then topped with all your favorites: honey, chocolate, whipped cream, sprinkled with cinnamon and topped with a cherry.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Bow down to beverage royalty… reining at the throne as the most popular cocktail, the Margarita is a total classic. Its refreshing blend of salt, lime, orange liqueur, and thirst-quenching tequila make it most deserving of devotion.
While the cocktail-martini hybrid basics may scream simplicity, we like to think of the marg as the perfect base to experiment, blending new tropical tastes and flavors… one of its best qualities!
In its purest form, the classic Margarita (whether on the rocks or frozen) is the quintessential cocktail to accompany any Mexican plate. Cause sometimes, less really is more. But if you’re feeling bold, we offer a multitude of margs that pack a punch.
Try out our Chamoy Margarita. Salty, sweet, sour, and spicy, it’s an absolute flavor knockout! This margarita is refreshingly citrusy, subtly chile-spiced, seriously delicious, and perfect for these hot summer days! (East Ridge, TN location only)
While everyone has their own idea of what the perfect margarita tastes like, all our amigos agree, our margs can’t be beat! Frozen or on the rocks, flavors include: Margarona, Mango, Peach, Passionfruit, Strawberry, and Raspberry. Cool off with a 12oz. Texas Margarita, 27oz. Jumbo, or grab a 60oz. Pitcher for sharing!
Our summer recommendation? A sweet and spicy, Tajin-rimmed (Chili Lime) Frozen Mango Margarita! Tajin is a unique blend made of world-class chilies, lime, and sea salt.
Sip down 2 for the price of 1 during Happy Hour (daily). East Ridge, Brainerd, Hixson from 3-9pm and 4-8pm at Johnson City and Elizabethton locations. See you soon!