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Cinco de Mayo: What it is and how to celebrate

Learn all about Cinco de Mayo's history and how to celebrate it.
Cinco de Mayo
AFP-Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

This Sunday is Cinco de Mayo, a day celebrating Mexican culture across the United States and, to a lesser extent, in Mexico. Here is a complete guide to the holiday, from what it is to what foods to serve at your own fiesta.

What is Cinco de Mayo and what does it celebrate?

People in the U.S. often mistake Cinco de Mayo for Mexico's Independence Day, which is Sept. 16. Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico's underdog victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The triumph inspired the Mexican people and, six years later, the French were finally driven out of Mexico for good. Today, the holiday more broadly celebrates Mexican culture as a whole.

When is Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo, which directly translates from Spanish to the "fifth of May," will take place this Sunday, May 5.

How is Cinco de Mayo celebrated?

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated by Mexican Americans with festive dress, parades and, of course, food! Typical spreads for the holiday include tacos, guacamole and tequila drinks. If you are throwing a Cinco de Mayo party this year, be sure to give these festive recipes a try!

Where is Cinco de Mayo celebrated?

Though Cinco de Mayo commemorates a Mexican military victory, it is not widely celebrated in Mexico. It is, however, embraced in the United States by both Mexican Americans and people of other cultures.

Cinco de Mayo in U.S. History

The holiday became popular in the United States during the civil rights movement, when Mexican Americans used the day as a source of pride. At the time, it was a chance for them to come together and celebrate their culture. Since the 1980s, however, the holiday has become commercialized by beer companies while gaining popularity across the country.