Holidays provide a convenient framework for having fun with the kids. Unfortunately, some holidays aren’t as familiar as others and misconceptions can cause problems with your child’s other parent. Cinco de Mayo is one example and will be here before you know it.
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What is Cinco de Mayo anyway?
Cinco de Mayo literally means “May 5th” in Spanish. It falls on Sunday this year.
In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is of modest importance. Instead of drinking parties, towns host parades and reenactments to pay homage to the Battle of Puebla, where the Mexican Army defeated the French in 1862. The victory served as a defining moment for the country, as Mexico’s scrappy army of just 4,000 men was able to hold back a world-class military force double its size.
As an American holiday, Cinco de Mayo is more akin to St. Patrick’s Day than to the Fourth of July. (In fact, Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated in September.) Marked with parties and parades, it celebrates Mexican-American history and culture. Unfortunately, similar to St. Paddy’s, the way some people celebrate Cinco de Mayo does more to reinforce stereotypes than honor the influence of our neighbors to the south.
Too many celebrations focus on oversized sombreros, ponchos and big, bushy mustaches, encouraging children to find fun in reducing Mexican people to clowns. That’s something your child’s other parent might have a big problem with – for good reason.
Three ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in fun and respectful ways:
1. Food! From tacos to chocolate, Mexican cuisine and parties go hand-in-hand. Host a Mex-inspired potluck or try out a variety of new dishes. It doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult to pull off. Even Walmart sells pozole, menudo, tamales and other dishes you can warm up quickly in the microwave. Sample the selection of Mexican snacks and beverages, like Jarritos Soda.
2. Music. Did you know Mexico puts its own spin on music styles from around the world? While mariachi is a well-known musical style associated with the country, there is an entire musical landscape to explore. Rap. Jazz. Reggae. Country. Metal. Pop. Spend the day listening to Mexican bands that fit your family’s taste in music.
3. Ancient exploration. While kids in the U.S. are familiar with the pyramids of Giza, many students never really learn about the ancient empires of Mexico and their awe-inspiring structures. The Olmec, Aztec and Mayan civilizations all built their own pyramids, several of which are still standing today. Create visuals to help your kids compare the architecture, or better yet, make them in piñata form and pack with popular Mexican candies.
Spending time with your kids should be as fun as possible, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. It’s even better when you can make things educational. With Cinco de Mayo growing in popularity, there’s no better time to celebrate.