It’s great to have an excuse to celebrate — and for many Americans, Cinco de Mayo (May the Fifth) is a popular one. The holiday commemorates the date in 1862 when Mexican soldiers successfully fought off French troops who were trying to take over Mexico City (though many people mistakenly think the date marks Mexico’s independence).
Now, as much as anything — especially in the United States — Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican culture. According to National Geographic Kids, more people celebrate the occasion in the United States than south of the border. (Go figure!)
Be sure to check your local entertainment sites for events in your area: There will be parades, parties and cultural performances across the United States throughout the weekend (May 5 is a Friday) — and let’s not forget the annual Running of the Chihuahuas (yes, that breed of tiny dog) in locations that include Washington, D.C.; Chandler, Arizona; and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Then plan your own Cinco de Mayo celebration, or at least borrow the theme for a Hello to Spring party, starting with these five ideas:
1. Compile a Cinco de Mayo playlist
There are thousands of songs from which to choose, but here is a ready-made list from All Music.com. We’ve listed their top 10 Mexican-themed song titles below. Choose from a wide array of versions from the various streaming music services.
- “The Mexican Hat Dance (El Jarabe Tapatio)”
- “La Bamba”
- “Hot Hot Hot”
- “La Cucaracha”
- “Tequila Boom Boom (Balli di Gruppo)”
- “Cinco de Mayo”
- “El Baile del Perrito (The Dancing Dog)”
2. Learn the Mexican Hat Dance
There are plenty of Mexican dances, but the Mexican Hat Dance is a simple one to learn quickly — as do many grade school kids. Here’s how it’s performed according to Love to Know:
Fold your left arm across your stomach and set your right elbow on your left hand so that your right hand is palm open to the audience. Move your right hand back and forth as you put your right heel out in front.
Reverse step one, so that your right arm rests across the stomach with your left elbow is on your right hand. Again, wave your left hand back and forth as your left heel goes out in front of you.
Repeat step one.
On count 4, clap twice very quickly. You then repeat these steps seven times. If you are using traditional “Mexican Hat Dance” music, you will hear the music change after you have completed seven steps of what is described above. At the music change, clap four times and then raise your arms up in the air, exclaiming “olé!” for extra fun and expression.
The music will then restart, so you will repeat it all, going faster each time. If you choose to have many partners dance at once, all of the dancers can come together at the end to make a complete circle and sidestep in an agreed-upon direction until the music is over. “Mexican Hat Dance” steps are very energetic and a great way to have young students burn off some energy and bring some laughter into an otherwise humdrum day.
3. Bust out the margaritas
The margarita was born in the 1930s and has been associated with Mexico ever since, reported The Buzz Magazines. There are many variations on the margarita but here’s a recipe from Cooking Channel TV.com:
- 1 to 1 1/2 ounces silver tequila
- 1 ounce orange liqueur, such as Cointreau
- 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
- Splash simple syrup
- Coarse salt
- 1 fresh mint leaf, for garnish
Once the ingredients are assembled, here’s how they advise you to proceed:
Combine the tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice and simple syrup in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake until cold, and strain into a chilled, salt-rimmed rocks glass. Garnish with mint, and serve.
4. Offer up Mexican fare
If you want to serve kid-friendly fare, you can dish up the usual food you see in Mexican restaurants in the United States: tortilla chips, guacamole and tacos.
But in Mexican communities they are far more likely to be serving traditional meals including “lamb barbacoa that has been smoked underground in banana leaves or carnitas topped with queso fresco, pickled onions and homemade salsa verde wrapped in a warm homemade corn tortilla that has been ever so lightly heated,” according to Smithsonian.com.
If you want to create some authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex fare, check out “28 Amazing Cinco de Mayo Recipes” on the site My Latina Table.
Whichever menu you choose, add flair by making sure you have plenty of red, green and white food on the table — those are the colors of the Mexican flag.
Decorate in red, white and green
You don’t need a lot of time or money to decorate for the holiday. Use red, green and white (the colors of the Mexican flag) crepe paper streamers and glitter, Mexican-themed centerpieces, sombreros, party favors and chili peppers for atmosphere. Shop party supply sites and discount stores, such as Party City, Oriental Trading, Amols’ Fiesta Party Supply and Target.
A bit of music, refreshments, dance and decorations are a perfect way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
Do you celebrate Cinco de Mayo? If so, share your tips in comments below or on our Facebook page.