Cinco de Mayo is celebrated all around the world, but how many of us really know what the day commemorates? I grew up in Southern California, which has deep roots in Mexican culture, and every year Cinco de Mayo was a big deal – with parties, festivals, and celebrations all across town. What's surprising is that many people are not even aware of the history behind the holiday, which is a shame when you get down to it, because it is an opportunity to recognize an important historical event.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla that took place on May 5, 1862. That was the day when the Mexican army under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated a significantly larger and more powerful French army. The astonishing victory is a big part of Mexican pride and an occasion to celebrate national unity and pride.

It is also a good chance for all of us to learn some interesting facts about Mexican culture and take part in the festivities. Here are some ideas on how to get it done.

1. Enjoy Some Mexican Cuisine With Family and Friends

Mexican dishes are some of my favorites, and are simple to make. Here are some suggestions on easy to make dishes. The dishes do well with groups of people, so invite some friends over to share and enjoy.

2. Wear the Colors of the Mexican Flag

The colors on the Mexican flag are green, white, and red and symbolize the hope, purity, and the blood of the Mexican people, respectively. You and your family can coordinate your outfits to reflect the spirit of the holiday.

3. Find Fun Facts About Mexican History

Did you know that the official name of Mexico is the United Mexican States? Learn more fun and interesting facts about Mexico here.

4. Dance to Traditional Mexican Music

Though it's originally referred to as a type of dance, Mariachi has come to mean a style of Mexican music and the band that performs it. Here you can learn about the historical roots and traditions of Mariachi. To listen, check out this video on YouTube.

5. Learn Some Mexican Words and Phrases

Spanish is a beautiful and useful language and shares some commonalities with English. Start with some easy words and phrases and try to find some similarities. Here's a good place to start.

6. Study the Battle of Puebla

And you can learn about the basis for Cinco de Mayo here. 

7. Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Check out the sweet moves of the Mexican Hat Dance and give it a try yourself.

8. Make a Piñata (and Break It)

Instead of purchasing a pinata, why not make your own? Just use a paper or plastic bag, decorate the outside, and fill it with candy. Tie it up and give it a few whacks with a stick. If you're feeling more ambitious, here are the full instructions.

9. Study Important Mexican Historical Events

A good way to learn more about the traditions and culture of our southern neighbors is to study some of the important historical events.

All of us at Parenting Squad hope you have a happy and safe Cinco de Mayo.