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Why Do Mexicans Eat Leftovers After Christmas?

Discover the Mexican way to keep enjoying Christmas for days and days.

MEXICO CITY — Why should we return to normalcy a day after Christmas dinner or New Year’s Eve party? That is a question that a lot of Mexican households answer each year. Mexicans want to preserve those precious moments of filial love and family unity by eating the leftovers of these dinners during the following days. Family members who could not arrive at Christmas dinner come the next day, carrying containers full of leftover food. The households reheat the last day’s dinner and, once again, the house lights up with the sounds of music, conversations, and festive spirits.

What measures are needed to preserve food in optimal conditions?

One must consider how long the storage will last. If a family eats the leftovers a week after they first cooked it, the best way to preserve the food is by freezing it. The vast majority of bacteria cannot reproduce in freezing environments, so frozen food is less likely to acquire bacteria than food left at room temperature. Some families boil individual dishes, like soups and sauces, to kill the remaining bacteria in the food. Depending on the dish, people can even use preserving methods like dehydration or smoking.

Why is it common to eat leftovers after the Christmas holidays?

The post-Christmas dinner promotes further union, joy, and familial bonds. Food acquires a more concentrated flavor due to the natural process of bacteria growth, but it does not spoil with the proper care. Mexican families usually prepare large amounts of food so that their families can enjoy several days of merriment. Some of the most traditional dishes on the leftover dinners are: stuffed turkey, pork leg, romeritos (sleepweed mole), cod, pork tenderloin, Olivier salad, apple salad, punch, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and more.

“Unlike the Christmas or New Year’s Eve celebration, we make these leftovers dinner in the afternoon, especially as the majority of the adults have cruda (hangover) and we sleep the whole morning. Between my mom and my aunts, they reheat the leftover dishes and cook new ones, like pozole or menudo (cow’s stomach broth) for all of those who have cruda, because it will help them with it,” Manuel Araujo Aguilar tells Zenger News.

“The best thing is that when we are eating, other family members start talking about all the funny moments of last night’s dinner, as well as tell jokes and cheesy anecdotes that are, usually, never forgotten,” said Araujo Aguilar.

On December 24th, Mexican families enjoy Christmas Eve to the fullest, toasting with cider, beer, wine, or tequila, in monumental celebrations. The leftovers dinner is just an excuse to continue partying the next day, meet other family members, or even nurse the hangover. It also gives a casual touch to the December celebrations. A leftovers dinner brings many pleasant moments with family and friends, and, despite it not being a tradition, it is one of the most loved “traditions” of Mexican households.

(Translated by Mario Vazquez. Edited by Alex Willemyns and Kristen Butler.)

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