Holiday: How to Throw a Cinco de Mayo Party
Every 5th of May, Mexico celebrates Cinco de Mayo in remembrance of La Batalla de Puebla, the remarkable victory of 4,000 Mexicans over more than 8,000 French in 1862. Though the two nations are on much better terms today, Cinco de Mayo is such a fun and festive celebration that it's been adopted by its northerly neighbors and is, frankly, the perfect excuse for a party! So let's get going on planning this fabulous fiesta. (Note: Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican independence day—that's Sept. 16.)
How to Throw a Cinco de Mayo Party
Cinco de Mayo Invitations
When it comes to Cinco de Mayo invitations, we say: "Make your own!" Come up with a great saying to print on the front, such as:
- “Vamanos, amigos...it's party time!”
- “Put a little salsa in your day—come to our Cinco de Mayo party!”
- “It's nacho ordinary party!”
- “Come to our casa for margaritas and fajitas.”
- “The party's hot, hot, hot...and it's here on (date) at (time).”
Green, red and white—the colors of the Mexican flag—dominate during this day of remembrance. Paper Mexican flags, hanging decorations and tissue paper flowers in these colors are perfect. Check out your local dollar store, or shop online for easy Cinco de Mayo party decorations. Or get creative and make your own!
Pick up some inexpensive chili pepper lights and string them around the room for added atmosphere. These can often be had at a steal at dollar shops, WalMart and other discount stores.
Setting the Party Table
Your décor should extend to the party table. Cover this with a colorful disposable tablecloth for easy cleanup later. Choose tableware with Mexican imagery—sombreros, maracas, Mexican flags and chili peppers fit the bill. Look for napkins, plates and cups that match this theme.
As a centerpiece, take a large straw sombrero—decorate your own by painting a plain straw hat pink, yellow and other bright colors—and lay it on the center of the table. Then sprinkle chili peppers along the rim. Toss some confetti around the hat and you have the perfect Cinco de Mayo table centerpiece.
Party Eats and Treats
Go traditional with your party menu. After all, who doesn't love Mexican food? Try these ideas:
Hot Hot Hot Tacos
- Hard (pre-fried) corn tortillas
- Shredded, cooked chicken and/or shredded cooked beef
- Chopped jalapeno peppers
- Your favorite cheese, shredded (if desired)
- Chili powder to taste
- Garlic powder to taste
Traditional tacos don't call for cheese, but if that's your preference, set out a dish and let people self-serve. To prepare the tacos, heat each tortilla in a 300 oven for 10 minutes with a moistened paper towel stuffed into each (this keeps them pliable). While these are heating, add jalapenos to your beef or chicken in a skillet. Add chili powder (go slowly and taste until the desired amount is reached) and garlic powder. Cook only until jalapenos are heated through. Serve each element on a separate dish on your table with spoons so people can self-serve in the quantities they like best.
Salsa Con Queso
- One 12-oz. jar of mild or medium chunky salsa
- 16 oz. processed cheese (such as Velveeta)
- Sliced mild jalapeno peppers for garnish
- Sliced black olives for garnish
- Corn chips
Cut up cheese into chunks and place in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time, stirring every full minute, until cheese is melted. Add the salsa (no need to heat further) and mix well. Pour the mixture into a decorative party dish and top with a few slices of mild jalapeno and half a handful of sliced black olives. Serve with corn chips on the side.
For the thirsty reveler, have plenty of yummy drinks on hand. Margaritas, daiquiris (all flavors), imported Mexican beer (cervesa) with lime wedges, sangria (with plenty of juicy fruit chunks) and Mexican wines will wet their whistles while they party.
Make sure you have at least one non-alcoholic beverage available; try a punch of red fruit juice, such as raspberry with lemon-lime soda, and float orange slices on top for a pretty presentation.
Just for Fun
Don't forget the party games! Whether your party is for children, adults or both, a pinata is an absolute must. A donkey, star, or sombrero shape is traditional; fill with lots of pinata favors and candies. Blindfold each guest and let him or her take three swings apiece. Be sure to have goody bags ready so guests can catch the favors as they fall.
For convenience, rent a helium tank or buy a disposable one. That way, on the morning of the party, you can fill as many balloons as you'd like without having to stuff them into your car to get them home.
With Mexican party music rocking in the background (or this fun one for the kids), drinks being passed around and tacos on the menu, you'll have guests dancing, partying, and having a fun fiesta to remember … at least until your luau!
Will you be celebrating Cinco de Mayo? What's on your menu?
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
By Chris Molnar, who will definitely be having a party on May 5th ... as that's his wife's birthday! She's Italian, but close enough! Chris is a father of two children, and is the owner of Themeaparty.com, where you can find ideas for your next party. Right after he's finished writing this, he's making some spicy tacos!