What is Cinco de Mayo and why is it celebrated?

MILLIONS of people will celebrate Cinco de Mayo with food, dancing and cerveza TODAY (Tuesday, May 5, 2020).

However, the coronavirus lockdown means traditional parades won't take place – and Mexican people face spending one of their most important holidays indoors.

But that doesn't mean the party will stop – and data firm Nielsen suggests sales of tequila are up by a whopping 54.2 per cent ahead of the celebrations.

So why do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

What is the meaning of Cinco de Mayo?

People often (wrongly) believe Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican independence.

In fact, it's an annual celebration recognising the Mexican army's victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

The battle, which took place as the French attempted to carve out a new empire in Mexican territory, helped slow down the invading force's advance to Mexico City.

It lasted from daybreak until early evening and saw the French retreat after they lost nearly 500 soldiers.

The Mexican force lost fewer than 100 men.

The event has since developed into a celebration of Mexican heritage in the United States.

In Mexico itself, the date would usually be marked with military parades.

When is Cinco de Mayo 2020?

Cinco de Mayo means the fifth of May – so it's today! (May 5, 2020)

The date was declared a national holiday in 1862.

It's no longer marked as a national holiday across all of Mexico.

However, all public schools close nationwide and it's an official holiday in Puebla and Veracruz states.

In Puebla, there are historic re-enactments, parades and meals to commemorate the battle.

Mexican independence – which was achieved in 1821 after more than 11 years of battles and skirmishes with Spain and later Napoleon's French empire – is celebrated with its own day in September.

Ideas for things to cook and fun ways to celebrate

Now that most of us have a lot more time at home, it's the perfect year to learn more about Mexican culture and traditions.

  • Decorate your home with traditional Mexican folk art papel picado. The craft – 'perforated paper' or 'pecked paper' – is created by cutting elaborate designs into sheets of tissue paper. Designs are cut from as many as 50 pieces of paper stacked together
  • Try out some Mexican-inspired recipes. One of our favorites is pico de gallo, a fresh, zingy salsa. All you'll need is: four plum tomatoes; one white onion; 12 cilantro sprigs; two serrano chiles; a lime; and sea salt. Chop the ingredients finely before adding a squeeze of lime and a pinch of salt at the end. If you're with family, you might prefer the more substantial chilaquiles in mulato chilli sauce
  • Listen to some Mexican music and learn some traditional moves. You could try Jarabe Tapatío – the Mexican Hat Dance – or La Conquista, which narrates the story of the Spanish conquest – this will also be a great way for kids to learn by the history of Mexico
  • Mix a margarita and fire up Zoom for a drink with friends. The day is best celebrated with others – even if you can't be with them in person


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