Many people confuse Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May in Spanish, with Mexico’s independence day but, in actuality, it is a national holiday commemorating the country’s victory over the French which, of course, was an important step towards attaining autonomy.

While all special days are enjoyable, Cinco de Mayo is a real opportunity to let loose, tuck into some good food and have some fun. Here are some suggestions for making the most of the day as a family.

Make Some Crafts

What’s a holiday without a little craftwork? Cinco de Mayo is no exception. It could be as simple as using a little construction paper to make Mexican flags or you could be slightly more ambitious and make maracas by filling paper cups with a few dried pinto beans and gluing them together.

Bailamos!

There’s a reason Enrique Iglesias’ song “Bailamos” was so popular – people love to dance and Latin music definitely gets you moving. You can see if Mexican folk dance lessons are available in your area, look for a local party celebrating Cinco de Mayo or blast some tunes in the comfort of your own home (you can even dance in your pajamas!).

Learn the History

The day is important because, as mentioned, it marks the anniversary of Mexico defeating France at the battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is believed that the holiday was first celebrated in the United States by Mexicans and Latinos living in California during the American Civil War.  Today, it has grown into a huge occasion with major events taking place across the country and abroad in Canada, the Cayman Islands, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Japan.

Watch a Movie

There are a decent number of movies celebrating Mexicans and the country’s history. For a more serious dramatic film, consider Frida which tells the story of surrealist painter, Frida Kahlo, and her husband, Diego Rivera, a painter who helped launch the Mexican Mural Movement with his works in fresco.  For romance, check out Like Water for Chocolate which is a beautiful love story about a couple, Pedro and Tita, who cannot marry. Apocalypto is a great choice for those who enjoy action films as it depicts life in the ancient Mayan civilization for one man trying to prevent his family from being human sacrifices. Seeking something more lighthearted?  You can’t go wrong with The Legend of Zorro. The swashbuckling adventures of fabled Mexican hero, Zorro, will have you cheering for the masked avenger who strives to bring justice to the locals.

Celebrate With Food!

Mexican food has become a real staple in North American diets with good reason – it’s delicious! Challenge yourself to prepare fresh salsa, guacamole and pico de gallo to serve with your taco bar, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, carnitas, rice and refried beans. Get inventive for dessert. Of course, there are the traditional options such as flan, churros or tres leches cake but you could layer Jell-o to look like the Mexican flag or hang a pinata for a sweet treat at the end of the night.
Whatever you choose to do, make Cinco de Mayo a celebration worthy of its history. Don’t forget the margaritas!