The festivities around and amount of time in which Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated in the United States has helped in making it one the most celebrated holidays. Despite the origin of this tradition remaining relatively unknown its popularity has spread across the nation,* offering numerous opportunities for families, Mexican-Americans, and everyone who wishes to be Mexican for a day a chance to celebrate the victory of the Battle of Puebla over France.
Having grown so extensively since the holiday was first celebrated, the popularity of Cinco de Mayo is considered to be at the same level as St.Patrick’s Day and Oktoberfest.* During the festivities, it is common for many to invite their family and friends over for Cinco de Mayo parties where their houses have been decorated with the colors of the Mexican flag and guests are encouraged to dress with the same colors to symbolize the Mexican pride after defeating the French troops in Puebla. In many cases, the same guests will also use certain props such as sombreros, fake mustaches and maracas.** Keeping with the Mexican theme, traditional Mexican folk music or mariachi bands will generally be playing along with traditional dancing, and traditional Mexican dishes are available such as tacos, enchiladas, salsa and tortilla chips with drinks like Margaritas and Mexican beer.***
During the day, many large parades take place where people dress up as Mexican and French troops and vendors sell traditional Mexican food, patriotic clothing and accessories.*** The parades are blocks long, filled with vibrant colors and people celebrating. Traditional Mexican symbols like the Virgin of Guadalupe and Cesar Chavez area lso commonly represented in banners and flags by Mexican American citizens at each procession. Additionally in certain locations there are specifically planned events that are designed for educating children about the historical significance this day holds and keep Mexican culture as its primary focus.*
In certain cities reenactments of the Battle of Puebla are held to commemorate the brave Mexican soldiers who fought and died long ago. The reenactors dress up as both Mexican and French troops with the Mexican side equipped with machetes and old rifles. Women wear colorful skirts and flowery hats to represent the women who traveled with the army. There is smoke, shouting and mock sword battles between the Mexican and French generals; although, in some reenactments real gun powder may be used with more aggressive fighting where people are hurt on occasion. It is common for families and children to arrive first followed by the younger crowd whose main purpose is to celebrate by attending late night parties. While there are also parades take place around these reenactments with people dressed up in Mexican and French attire as well, the parade onlookers do not participate in the reenactment.****
* www.buzzle.com “Cinco de Mayo: Traditions and Activities”
**www.altiusdirectory.com, “Cinco de Mayo Traditions”
***www.punchbowl.com “Cinco de Mayo Traditions”
****www.inside-mexico.com “Cinco de Mayo” by May Herz