What's the big deal about Cinco de Mayo, literally translated as the fifth of May? Here's what you need to know :
1. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day.
Most Americans confuse this holiday with Mexico's Independence Day, but that date is Sept. 16.
2. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of the 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.
3. Cinco de Mayo is a celebrations of underdogs.
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.
4. Cinco de 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.
5. Cinco de Mayo 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.