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Mexican Christmas Traditions in Los Angeles

Performing a traditional Mexican folk dance to entertain Christmas shoppers at the Citadel Outlets (credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

No holiday brings the Mexican-American community together like Christmas. Every year Las Posada, the 9-day celebration, takes over the hearts and minds of many people of Mexican descent in Los Angeles. Posada means shelter and the celebration recreates Mary and Joseph's search to find shelter to give birth to the baby Jesus. The celebration includes music, food, and dance, and ends on Noche Buena, Christmas Eve. Every night a different couple acts as Mary and Joseph and a procession follows behind. On Christmas Eve, families gather together and eat tamales, drink champurado, a warm spiced drink, and attend midnight mass. Many Catholic churches have Posada celebrations, but none as big as the one on Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles. If you can't make it to a posada, I've included a few places to get supplies for your own. Feliz Navidad!


Las Posadas

Olvera Street

10 Olvera Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 625-7074
More Info

The biggest celebration in the city happens on Olvera Street. It starts in front of the historic Avila Adobe, the oldest house in Los Angeles, every night from Dec. 16th to the 24th. The music starts at 5:30 and Folklorico dance groups perform. At 6:30 children break piñatas and at 7:30 the procession starts. A man and woman acting as Mary and Joseph walk together from store to store asking for shelter. A procession of people, some dressed as shepherds, follows behind them singing Christmas carols in English and Spanish. The procession ends at a different store each night and is treated to champurado and pan dulce, a Mexican sweet bread. Every night the procession gets larger and by Christmas Eve about 30,000 are celebrating Las Posadas. John Kopczynski, who does public relations for the El Pueblo Historical Monument, said that it's a wonderful family event, but parking is very limited. He suggested taking the Metrolink Train to Union Station and taking the short walk from there to Olvera Street.

Mar Vista Family Center

5075 S. Slauson Avenue
Culver City, 90230
(310) 390-9607
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Families will celebrate Las Posadas at 6 p.m. on Dec. 15 at the Mar Vista Family Center. Youth for Youth teens will dress up as Mary and Joseph and walk down Slauson Avenue in Culver City followed by a procession singing Christmas Carols. Afterwards, everyone is welcome to enjoy champurado, pan dulce, and tamales and also learn about the Las Posadas tradition.

The Food

Whether you gather with family days in advance to make tamales or buy them at the market, food is a big part of the Mexican Christmas tradition. Some families get together during the day on Christmas Eve to cook, but that's not easy to fit in when there's work and last minute Christmas shopping to get done. Here is a list of places to get supplies to make tamales, bunuelos, and pan dulce homemade or buy it all if you don't have time. I consulted with Latina blogger and Los Angeles native Catalina Juarez, CatalinainLA, to compile the list of some of our favorite places.

Los Cinco Puntos

3300 E Cesar E Chavez Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90063
(323) 261-4084

Los Cinco Punto is a great place to go get masa, the main ingredient in tamales, but the lines can be out the door the closer you get to Christmas.

Tamales Liliana's

4619 E Cesar E Chavez Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90022
(323) 780-0989

You can get tamales here on Christmas Eve, but you better go early. People are in line at 6 am.

Guelaguetza Restaurante

3014 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 427-0608
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Call and order ahead to get tamales with mole from this Oaxacan restaurant.

Pasteleria Tres Leches

3200 East 4th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90063
(323) 269-0036
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The Boyle Heights bakery specializes in Tres Leches cake, but also offers sweet breads.

Northgate Market

1320 W. Francisquito Ave.
West Covina, CA 91790
(626) 919-5183

2323 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 249-9173

2633 Santa Ana St.
South Gate, CA 90280
(323) 277-3000

Additional locations throughout Southern California
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If you're like me and you're looking for ready-to-fry dough for bunuelos (fried tortilla-like pastry with cinnamon sugar), hit Gonzales Northgate Markets for that or any other supplies you need.

Top Valu Market

4700 Inglewood Blvd
Culver City, CA 90230
(310) 390-9630

Additional locations throughout Southern California
More Info

This market has great produce, yummy pan dulce, cooked tamales, masa for tamales and a great selection of groceries.

Additional locations throughout Southern California
Yvonne Condes blogs at

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