4 Facts About Cinco De Mayo

Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the U.S., like this one in San Diego, are often bigger than the ones in Mexico. (Photo: Kobby Dagan/Shutterstock.com)

What's the big deal about Cinco de Mayo, literally translated as the fifth of May? Here's what you need to know:

It Is Not Mexico's Independence Day

Most Americans confuse this holiday with Mexico's Independence Day, but that date is Sept. 16.

Cinco De Mayo Is a Celebration of the Battle of Puebla 

cinco de mayo, Battle of Puebla
In the Battle of Puebla, about 2,000 Mexican soldiers fought against about 6,000 French soldiers. (Photo: Unknown author [public domain]/Wikimedia Commons)

The holiday commemorates the Mexican Army's 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). The battle was fought in the town of Puebla de Los Angeles. The French army had three times the amount of troops as the Mexican army, but the Mexican soldiers stood their ground. After more than 500 French soldiers were killed, the army retreated.

It Is Not Really a Big Deal in Mexico

Why make such a big deal over one victory? The win at Puebla was a huge deal for Mexico because the Mexican Army went into the battle as underdogs. They had no training and no equipment and were vastly outnumbered against the well-armed, well-disciplined and well-funded French, who up until that point had defeated them at every turn. Yet, they prevailed. Cinco Mayo Is Not Really a Big Deal in Mexico

With all of the fuss around May 5 here in the U.S., you would think it was the biggest holiday in Mexico — but that's not the case. That honor goes to Mexican Independence Day. Still, Mexicans do celebrate the day with family gatherings, fireworks, dancing, and lots of yummy food.

It Is a Holiday for Everyone To Celebrate

Many towns around the U.S. have festivals, fiestas, dances, fireworks, food, and music in honor of the holiday. It's a great time to teach your kids about the culture, people, and history of Mexico — or even learn a little yourself.