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Thursday, March 23, 2023

5 Mexican holiday films to get you into the Christmas spirit

From the wacky to the sweet and bizarre

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

Watching silly holiday movies that you have already seen dozens of times is part of what makes this time of year so fun and special. 

Long-time favorites such as “A Christmas Carol,” “Christmas Vacation,” and “Home Alone” have delighted audiences for generations with their feel-good messages and holiday spirit.

Here in Mexico, we have our own holiday classics full of whimsy, magic, and corny jokes. These being Mexican films, they of course bring with them some elements that may seem bizarre to outsiders (a little more on that later) but say a lot about the country’s culture and sense of humor.

For your convenience, we have added links to view most of these films for free on YouTube. The films are obviously in Spanish, but you can turn on automatically generated English captions. Just keep in mind that the quality of the translation may vary. 

Santa Claus (1959)

I am sure you can tell just by looking at this image that 1959’s Mexican Santa Claus movie is a tad bizarre. Photo: Courtesy

Have you ever wondered what would happen if Santa Claus teamed up with Merlin to fight Satan over the soul of a little girl? Of course you have, and thankfully this 1959 classic fills you in on how exactly it would pan out. Spoiler alert: Santa wins. 

The full movie can be watched on YouTube but is also usually shown on TV on Christmas Eve.

The film also contains a variety of bizarre scenes including a very non-politically correct musical vignette of children from around the world. It is somehow simultaneously adorable and profoundly awkward.

Las Rosas del Milagro (1960)

Poster advertising “Las Rosas del Milagro,” a historical drama with many explicit religious and cultural overtones. Photo: Courtesy

Translating literally as “Miracle Roses,” this film directed by Julián Soler, a luminary of Mexico’s golden age of cinema, is a historical drama set in the time of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire.

The film focuses on the conflict between the Spanish Conquistadors and the Aztecs, and how their adoration for the Virgin of Guadalupe ultimately brings them together to create modern Mexico. This is, of course, a huge oversimplification but gets to the heart of the traditional narrative.

Full version of Las Rosas del Milagro on YouTube.

The movie also features some really interesting battle scenes between the Spaniards and Aztecs, though some of the indoor sets look flimsy. 

Mi Niño Tizoc (1971)

Tizoc and his father Carmelo face many trials in this 1971 film but ultimately get their happy ending. Photo: Courtesy

“Mi Niño Tizoc,” or “My Boy Tizoc,” tells the story of a widowed indigenous man named Carmelo, living in Xochimilco, and his son Tizoc. Both work selling flowers and suffer severe discrimination for their indigenous heritage. 

The pair go through a series of unfortunate ordeals, but in characteristic Mexican fashion, never lose their love for life. After not being invited to any posadas (Christmas celebrations) because of his poverty and low social standing, Carmelo throws a party just for Tizoc with his very own piñata — for which he is over the moon. 

The full version of “Mi Niño Tizoc” is on YouTube. 

The film obviously deals with lots of complicated topics but is overall fairly sensitive in its depiction of racism and poverty  — though it does certainly romanticize it in a way that would be seen as problematic today. 

Los Tres Reyes Magos (1976)

The three magi prepare to embark on their quest. Photo: Courtesy

This animated feature follows the adventures of the three Biblical magi Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltasar. The trio starts their trail somewhere in Persia, guided by a star that they believe will lead them to their savior, the still-infant Jesus Christ. 

During their trip, the devil attempts to get in their way on several occasions but is ultimately defeated when all three men, sometimes referred to as kings, arrive at the humble barn to meet the child Christ, his mother Mary, and her husband Joseph — accompanied by a host of angels and animals. 

The full version of “Los Tres Reyes Magos” is viewable on YouTube.

The film was one of the very first feature-length Mexican animated films, and for its time, the animation holds up remarkably well. 

Navidad, S. A. (2008)

Promotional poster for Navidad, S.A., which sees Santa forced to deal with the melting of his home. Photo: Courtesy

This movie depicts a much more modern Santa Claus than the previous films on this list and takes place in 2008. 

The story of the film hinges on the worry of Santa Claus that Christmas has become too much about consumption and also delves into several contemporary issues, including climate change. 

Theatrical trailer for “Navidad, S.A.” on YouTube. The full movie can be seen in Mexico using HBO’s streaming service. 

Things get even worse for Santa when a rogue elf by the name of Tito, motivated by greed, tries to take Santa’s place and turn his workshop into a for-profit business. Santa enlists the help of an old friend, who is now all grown up, to defeat Tito and rescue the North Pole and Christmas.

The film has extremely high production values and gives a few visual nods to the Harry Potter franchise. It’s corny but cute and worth a watch if you are in the mood for this kind of film.  

Let us know if you enjoyed any of these Christmas movies, and don’t be shy about letting us know which one caught your attention the most.

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