What is Mexico’s Santa called?

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Mexico has a rich cultural heritage that dates back to the Aztec civilization, which existed before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. One of the most fascinating aspects of Mexican culture is its unique blend of pre-Columbian and European influences. Mexican folklore is filled with colorful characters and creatures that are unique to the region, and none is more beloved than Santa Claus’s Mexican counterpart. In this article, we will explore who Mexico’s Santa is, what he does, and why he is so special to the Mexican people.

What is Mexico's Santa called?

The Origin of Mexico’s Santa

In Mexico, Santa Claus is known as “Santa Claus,” but he is also referred to as “San Nicolás” or “San Nicolás de Bari.” The roots of Santa Claus in Mexico can be traced back to the Spanish colonial period, when Spanish friars introduced the story of Saint Nicholas to the indigenous people of Mexico. According to tradition, Saint Nicholas was a fourth-century bishop who was known for his generosity and compassion for the poor. Over time, the story of Saint Nicholas became interwoven with the local customs and beliefs of the Mexican people, creating a unique blend of European and indigenous folklore.

San Nicolás and the Christmas Season

In Mexico, the Christmas season is an important time of year, and San Nicolás plays a central role in the celebrations. The festivities begin on December 12th with the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which commemorates the apparition of the Virgin Mary to the indigenous peasant Juan Diego in 1531. This celebration marks the start of a period known as Las Posadas, which lasts for nine days and reenacts the journey of Mary and Joseph as they searched for a place to stay in Bethlehem. On each of the nine nights, a different family hosts a party, and guests dress up as Mary and Joseph and go from house to house, asking for shelter. At the end of the night, everyone gathers for a piñata filled with candy and small toys.

On December 24th, families gather for the main event, the Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve, feast. The centerpiece of the feast is a traditional dish called bacalao, which is made from dried codfish, potatoes, and tomatoes. After dinner, families attend midnight Mass, known as la Misa de Gallo, or the Rooster’s Mass, which symbolizes the announcement of Christ’s birth. After Mass, everyone returns home to exchange gifts and celebrate with family and friends.

San Nicolás and the Tradition of La Rosca de Reyes

Another important part of the Mexican Christmas season is the tradition of La Rosca de Reyes, or the King’s Cake. This sweet bread is shaped like a wreath and is decorated with dried fruit and sugar. Inside the bread, there are small plastic dolls, which represent the baby Jesus. The tradition is that whoever gets a slice of bread with the doll inside must host a party on February 2nd, which is the feast of the Candelaria, or Candlemas. This celebration marks the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the pre-Lenten period known as Carnaval.

San Nicolás and the Three Wise Men

In addition to his role in the Christmas season, San Nicolás also plays a central role in the celebration of Dia de los Reyes Magos, or the Day of the Three Wise Men, which takes place on January 6th. According to tradition, the Three Wise Men visited the baby Jesus on this day and brought him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In Mexico, children leave their shoes outside their bedroom doors on the night of January 5th, and the Three Wise Men leave gifts and sweets in them.


In conclusion, San Nicolás is Mexico’s beloved version of Santa Claus, who plays a central role in the Christmas season and other important celebrations. Although his origins can be traced back to the Spanish colonial period, San Nicolás has evolved over time to become a uniquely Mexican character that represents the blending of European and indigenous folklore. His generosity and compassion for the poor, which are traits attributed to Saint Nicholas, have become a part of Mexican culture, and his image can be seen everywhere during the holiday season.

Mexican folklore is rich with colorful characters, and San Nicolás is just one of many that add to the magic and wonder of the Christmas season. Whether it is the tradition of La Rosca de Reyes or the celebration of the Three Wise Men, San Nicolás is an integral part of Mexican culture and an important symbol of the spirit of giving and generosity that defines the holiday season. The next time you find yourself in Mexico during the holiday season, be sure to keep an eye out for San Nicolás, and join in the festivities that have made him such a beloved figure in Mexican folklore.

What is Mexico’s Santa called?
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