On the fifth of May, everyone knows what that means – Cinco de Mayo! It’s a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day. However, that’s not true.
It commemorates the 1862 victory of the Mexican army over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla. It has become a common practice to celebrate Mexican culture on this day.
If you’re planning on celebrating Cinco de Mayo by hosting a party this year but would like to save some money, check out these ideas. To prevent cultural sensitivity issues, if you are not of Mexican descent, you should educate yourself on the holiday and its customs.
1. Don’t bother with paper invitations.
Your party invites can be sent out digitally, saving you money and trees. Using sites such as Evite.com, Paperlesspost, or Punchbowl.com, you can create custom digital invitations or create a Facebook event.
Also, you can add personalized messages to your avoid, as well as the party’s title, location, and description. You can even make your own layout by adding pictures and playing around with fonts.
With an email card, you can create an RSVP system and a private party message board. Most e-vites are free, but some charge for more features.
2. Add paper flowers to your table to brighten it up.
Make tissue paper flowers, a Cinco de Mayo décor element that is a must. It only takes four sheets of 6″ x 12″ tissue paper, a pipe cleaner, and a little creativity to make this Cinco de Mayo party idea.
Don’t want to do it yourself? You can buy handmade paper flowers from Chayo’s Flowers without feeling guilty — 6 flowers per bunch cost only $3.95.
3. Make your own piñata.
No party is complete without a piñata! Take a look at DIY piñata tutorials and gather the materials to make one on your own. The main materials you will need are tissue paper or crepe paper, newspaper, glue, scissors, water, flour, masking tape, and cardboard or balloon.
If you don’t already have arts and crafts supplies, Walmart or Michaels have affordable options.
Another idea? Place candy, and some crinkled-up newspaper, in a decorative shopping bag, then tape or staple it closed and hang it just high enough so that it’s difficult to hit. You’ll have a blast watching your guests, adults and children alike, take a whack at your colorful creation when you blindfold them.
4. Put together a build-your-own-taco bar.
Taco bars are quick, easy, and cheap to assemble, and they allow party guests to showcase their culinary skills. The possibilities for taco bar fillings and garnishes are endless. However, here are some suggestions:
- Tortillas. Flour tortillas are more expensive, unhealthy, and less authentic than corn tortillas. To keep tortillas warm, wrap them in a towel and place them in a dish with a lid.
- Beans. You can use canned or pinto beans.
- Chicken. Using garlic, chili powder, paprika, and salt, you can shred a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.
- Pan-roasted veggies. Prepare a zucchini, mushroom, and squash blend for your vegetarian guests.
- Shredded cheese. In a Mexican cheese blend, cheddar cheese, Jack cheese, and Colby cheese are typically shredded. If you want to get fancy, crumble some queso fresco and cotija on top.
- Salsa. With tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and seasonings, you can make your own. Make it easy for guests to create their own dishes by laying out all the ingredients separately.
- A variety of garnishes. Sliced avocados, pickled onions, and pickled jalapenos should be served in separate bowls along with shredded lettuce, cilantro, sour cream, and sour cream.
If you don’t want to foot the whole bill, ask each invitee to bring an ingredient.
5. Make a margarita bar.
A margarita bar where guests can pour their own drinks might be a fun idea. There are a number of things you can include in your margarita bar:
- Several pitchers of margaritas. A large pitcher should be filled with tequila, triple sec, fresh lime juice, sweetened lime juice, and ice.
- Glasses with salt rims and straws. Make sure there are plenty of glasses on the table. Dip each glass in salt after rubbing a lime wedge around the edges.
- Limes that have been freshly cut. Slice fresh limes into wedges and arrange them on a plate.
- Paloma station. There are also Paloma cocktails, which are made with tequila and grapefruit juice, as an alternative to margaritas.
Just like with your taco bar, you could ask guests to bring various ingredients.
6. Create your own papel picado.
The original Mexican art of papel picado, or “pecked paper,” has intricate designs cut into tissue paper sheets. You can make this into a family art project with some construction or tissue paper, string, scissors, tape or a glue stick, and a pencil.
7. Attend a parade or fiesta.
In the US, Cinco de Mayo has become a popular holiday with parades, reenactments, and tandem skydiving. The following parades and fiestas might be of interest to you:
- Los Angeles. The Fiesta Broadway festival takes place every May 5th in Los Angeles: it is the largest Cinco de Mayo festival in the world.
- Denver. Denver’s Celebrate Culture festival celebrates Cinco de Mayo in a fun and upbeat manner. From authentic street food to beautiful handcrafted goods and Mexican folk art, vendors will sell everything in the city’s Civic Center Park during the full weekend of festivities.
- San Antonio. There’s nothing better than strolling through San Antonio’s historic Market Square during the Cinco de Mayo celebration, which is filled with delicious foods and music all weekend.
- Chicago. Since Chicago goes all out for St. Patrick’s Day, it shouldn’t surprise us that it also celebrates Cinco de Mayo. Several marching bands, mariachi bands, and beautifully decorated parade floats will lead the parade from Little Village to Douglas Park.
- Puebla, Mexico. Since the battle took place here, it has become the most popular place for Cinco de Mayo. Puebla has a lot to offer, such as street parties with food and music and the reform of the Puebla battle. The Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Puebla are also among the best for families. Additionally, in 2012, an International Mole Festival was added to Cinco de Mayo. This makes visiting Puebla one of the best trips you can have.
8. Visit a museum.
Communities across America are becoming more aware of the innumerable contributions made by Hispanic Americans to U.S. culture, society, and history. Hispanic arts and social movements can be explored at many museums across the country.
- Albuquerque. You can learn about Mexican heritage in New Mexico and enjoy live music and dance at the South Broadway Cultural Center or the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
- San Antonio. La Villita is the perfect place for those who prefer a hands-on approach to history. It was one of the town’s first neighborhoods and a small village turned arts community. Spanish architecture, Mexican folk art, handmade jewelry, and pottery are all on display, along with Hispanic history and artifacts.
- New York City. The only museum in New York City dedicated exclusively to Latin American and Latino art, El Museo del Barrio is located on Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile.
- Chicago. Mexican, Latino, and Chicano art and culture are featured at the National Museum of Mexican Art. Museum visitors are connected to the diversity of Mexican culture through the display of 3,000 years of creativity from both sides of the border.
- San Francisco. The souls and spirits of Mexican and American arts and cultures are fundamentally intertwined. As part of its programs, the Mexican Museum promotes dialogue among a wide audience about Latino art throughout the Americas.
9. Learn Spanish.
A Spanish-speaking friend can help you and your guests appreciate the culture behind the holiday by teaching you some key Spanish phrases. Or, you can learn the language for free at the following sites:
10. Host a movie marathon.
There is a wide range of Mexican-American films present in these films, from powerful dramas to romantic comedies to kid-friendly films. Children and adults will enjoy the films, which bring important cultural experiences to life.
- “Coco” (2017)
- “The Book of Life” (2014)
- “Selena” (1997)
- “McFaland, USA” (2015)
- “Real Women Have Curves” (2002)
- “My Family (Mi Familia)” (1997)
- “Roma” (2018)
- “Tortilla Soup” (2001)
- “La Bamba” (1987)
- “Zurdo” (2003)
- “Quinceañera” (2006)
11. Learn a traditional dance.
There is a blend of indigenous, African, and European influences in traditional Mexican dances. During colonial times, the Spanish were unsuccessful in suppressing indigenous dance, instead incorporating Spanish culture into it.
Dedicated troupes, such as the Ballet Folklorico, perform folklorico and jarabe styles as part of Mexico’s national identity.
During your party, you and your guests could watch a YouTube video teaching any of the following dances:
- Jarabe Tapatío. It is commonly referred to as the Mexican Hat Dance in English.
- La Conquista (the Conquest). This traditional Mexican dance tells the story of the Spanish conquest, as its name implies.
- Danza de los Viejitos (Dance of the Little Old Men). Although the dance was created and popularised during the 20th century, its roots and rhythms go back centuries.
- Danza del Venado (Deer Dance). Typically performed in springtime, this story is about a deer hunt.
- The Dance of the Quetzals. Known as the quetzal ceremony, this ancient custom traces its origins to pre-Spanish times. The dance is generally performed at religious festivals in the mountains of Puebla and Veracruz.
12. Play soccer (Fútbol) or kickball.
Kids can burn off some energy by participating in this popular Mexican sport. You can host a friendly soccer game in your backyard by putting two cones (as goals) on either side. Of course, adults can play too.
Also, in Mexican villages, kickball is a traditional sport and is great for outdoor parties — although it’s a bit different from American kickball. The partygoers should be divided into two teams. The object of the game is for each team member to kick a ball around an obstacle course and the team whose members complete the course first wins. For the obstacle course, you can use cones, chairs, or anything else you have on hand.
13. Enjoy a Marichai Band performance.
Traditional Mexican folk music ensembles include a line-up of specific instruments: violins, guitars, trumpets, a 15th-century Spanish string instrument called a vihuela, and bass guitars. Cinco de Mayo would not be complete without mariachi bands, which date back to the 18th century and are rooted in revolutionary history.
Since you’re on a budget, you probably can’t hire a mariachi band to perform at your party — unless everyone chips in. However, you might be able to catch a live performance if a mariachi band is playing at a local parade or fiesta.
Another option? Listen to this Spotify playlist.
14. Support local businesses.
While there will be plenty of Cinco de Mayo deals at chain restaurants (and some retailers), consider supporting local small Mexican businesses rather than Taco Bell or Del Taco. But, it’s even more crucial if you don’t belong to the Mexican community.
Do your research and buy from Mexican business owners if you want to show respect for Mexican history and culture. Discover Mexican businesses in need of support by searching for everything you need for your Cinco de Mayo party. Or, even consider having lunch at a local Mexican restaurant.
15. Take a Siesta.
You may be surprised to learn that in some Mexico towns, at 2 p.m. everyone stops working and takes a nap. It’s usually hot during this time of day, so they relax with some drinks and bread.
So, why not follow this siesta tradition for a fun Cinco de Mayo? Make your Cinco de Mayo party ultra-laid-back by asking your guests to being their hammocks and comfy patio furniture if you’re short-handed.
Is Cinco de Mayo Mexico’s Independence Day?
There is a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo marks Mexican Independence Day, but it actually commemorates a pivotal battle that took place in Puebla, a city during the Franco-Mexican War.
Despite being considered the underdogs, the Mexican Army was able to defeat the French. In contrast, Mexican Independence Day actually occurred 50 years earlier, on September 16, 1810.
What is Cinco de Mayo called in Mexico?
Despite the fact that Cinco de Mayo translates to the Fifth of May, which is the day when the holiday is celebrated in Puebla, Mexico, where the holiday originated, Mexicans don’t actually call it that. The holiday is officially known as El Da de la Batalla de Puebla, which translates to “The Day of the Battle of Puebla.”
Where was the first Cinco de Mayo celebration?
American and Latino newspapers in California reported on Mexican soldiers’ valorous efforts a few weeks after the Battle of Puebla. The state’s residents were so excited they organized parades of Civil War-era costumes.
One northern California town celebrated with drinks, food, and banquets — this was probably the first Cinco de Mayo fiesta in the country.
When was Cinco de Mayo officially recognized in the United States?
In spite of being celebrated within weeks of the Battle of Puebla in the U.S., Cinco de Mayo was not officially recognized until 1933. At that time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt helped establish the “Good Neighbor Policy” with Latin American countries to establish positive exchanges and relationships.
How can you throw a proper Cinco de Mayo party?
Traditionally, Cinco De Mayo celebrates Mexican history, culture, values, and ethnicity. With a tostada in one hand and a bottle of Jarritos in the other, there is no better way to celebrate Mexican pride.
Even with the commercialization of Cinco de Mayo in the 1980s, the Mexican feast remains a staple of the celebration, since 1863. And, this typically includes tacos, tamales, pozole, and mole.