It’s almost Cinco de Mayo, do you know what that means? Siesta time is over—get ready for a fun fiesta. Like Hanukkah and Dia de Los Muertos, Cinco de Mayo is also being celebrated at home this year by many enthusiastic Californians. But, staying home is not a reason to avoid going all out for the annual Mexican celebration. With health and safety regulations in mind, here’s how to plan an impressive celebration for Cinco de Mayo at home.
What is Cinco de Mayo?
Cinco De Mayo translates to the fifth of May, which is when the holiday is celebrated. The annual celebration commemorates the Mexican army's victory over France during the Franco-Mexican War (also known as the Battle of Puebla) on May 5, 1862.
Certain that victory was theirs, six thousand French troops led by General Charles Latrille de Lorencez set out to attack the city of Puebla. But, the Mexicans were prepared to battle; two thousand men led by General Ignacio Zaragoza led the men to war.
Despite being outnumbered, the Mexican army defeated the French with significantly fewer losses. Ever since 1862, Cinco de Mayo has represented a symbolic victory for the Mexican government, bolstering the resistance movement.
Why is Cinco De Mayo celebrated in the United States?
While the holiday celebrates an achievement related to the country of Mexico, it’s also seen as a holiday in the U.S. as well. Over the years, Mexicans in the United States have taken the reins on Cinco de Mayo celebrations. While the origins of the holiday are remembered and respected, Cinco de Mayo now also represents a celebration of Mexican American culture, heritage, and relations.
Chicano activists are credited for raising awareness for the holiday in the U.S. during the 1960s. They identified with the victory of indigenous Mexicans over European invaders during the Battle of Puebla and resonated with the symbolic meaning behind it.
You’ll feel the spirit of Cinco de Mayo in the U.S. in areas with large Mexican populations. Case in point: California. In fact, many Mexican Americans believe that the Cinco de Mayo festivities we know today were first observed by Latinx people in California during the American Civil War.
Traditional Cinco de Mayo Activities
Under normal circumstances, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with parades and rallies. The day’s festivities are often accompanied by mariachi music and traditional folk dances; the day is celebrated with public and private parties. Mexican food is also a big part of Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Traditional Mexican dishes and region-specific iconic foods are commonly prepared by those celebrating the holiday.
People used to fly in from all over the country to celebrate the holiday in ethnic enclaves with large Mexican populations. However, the celebrations have been a little different recently. In any case, Cinco de Mayo at home doesn’t necessarily mean having less fun. On the contrary, you can throw a COVID-safe Cinco de Mayo party at home without having to compromise your favorite traditional Cinco de Mayo activities.
Make Cinco de Mayo arts and crafts, put on traditional music, cook your favorite Mexican dishes, and send out your virtual invites. Get ready to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at home with more gusto than you ever have before.
Cinco de Mayo Decorations
Decorating for Cinco de Mayo entails lots and lots of colors. While the hues of the Mexican flag often appear in costumes and party decorations, don’t feel limited to red, white, and green. Many people go all out with the colors including bright yellows, vibrant blues, and electric oranges.
If you don’t have Cinco de Mayo decorations on hand, don’t worry. Make DIY decor a part of your at-home Cinco de Mayo celebration. Use these easy instructions to get into the Cinco de Mayo spirit.
Cinco de Mayo Flowers
Also known as Mexican paper flowers or paper dahlias, these flowers are very common among Cinco de Mayo decorations. You probably have all you need to make your own colorful Cinco de Mayo flowers at home.
Colorful tissue paper
- Cut the desired number of colored tissue papers into rectangles.
- Stack five to eight sheets of paper on top of each other and fold them into an accordion. The more papers you use in this process, the fuller your Cinco de Mayo flowers will be. Don’t use more than eight, though, or you won't be able to fold it properly.
- Staple the folded accordion in the middle.
- Pull each sheet of accordioned paper towards the center on one half, then follow it up with the other half.
- The papers will meet in the middle and you’ll have a colorful paper dahlia.
Papel picados are another tissue paper decoration commonly used during Cinco de Mayo. Make your banner designs as simple or as intricate as you like, and get crafting.
Colorful tissue paper
Craft knife or scissors
- Pick a papel picado template you like and print it.
- Cut your tissue paper the same size as the template, place it over the template, and trace the design.
- Fold the paper as instructed by your specific template and cut out the holes. If you’re using a craft knife, you can do this step without folding.
- Repeat until you have enough papers to make a banner.
- Punch holes in the upper corners of each paper and pass the string through them.
- Your decorations are ready to help you celebrate Cinco de Mayo at home.
Cinco de Mayo Recipes
Whether you’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo at home by yourself, with your family, or over Zoom with your friends, one thing’s for sure—having Mexican food is a must. Make one (or all) of these tasty recipes to add a delicious flair to your fiesta. Cinco de Mayo from home has never been tastier.
Mexican Corn Dip
Carlsbad Cravings is the author of this delish dip that goes with anything. Hot, bubbly, and perfectly cheesy—this dip is bound to be a hit at any Cinco de Mayo celebration.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion
4 ears fresh sweet corn
1 red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves
1 cup salsa verde
16 ounces soft cream cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
Hot sauce to taste
Tender and juicy barbacoa is a Mexican staple you can’t resist. Whether you eat it on its own or make it into tacos and bowls, you can’t go wrong with this recipe from Downshiftology.
4 pounds of beef chuck roast
3–4 chipotles in adobo sauce
5 garlic cloves
¼ cup lime juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon cumin
½ tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ cup beef stock
3 bay leaves
Baked Polenta Fries with Chili Lime Mayo
These polenta fries from A Cozy Kitchen are the perfect addition to any party table. They’re easy and tasty finger foods—crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. We’re already drooling just thinking about it.
4 cups whole milk
1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
2 ¼ cup cornmeal
½ cup grated parmesan
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 dashes hot sauce
1 teaspoon lime juice
A pinch of salt
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