Mexico has changed rapidly during the 20th century. In many ways, contemporary life in its cities has become very similar to that in neighbouring United States and South America. Most Mexican villagers follow the older way of life more than the city people do. More than 75% of the people of Mexico live in cities of over 50,000 inhabitants. Large metropolitan areas include Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Puebla-Tlaxcala, while rural areas include Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Yucatán, Aguascalientes, Michoacan, and many more.
Mexicans celebrate their independence from Spain on September 16, and other holidays with colourful festivals known as "Fiestas". Every Mexican city, town and village holds a yearly festival to commemorate their local patron saints. During these festivities, the people pray and burn candles to honour their saints in churches decorated with flowers and colourful utensils. They also hold large parades, fireworks, dance competitions, beauty pageant contest, and buy refreshments in the market places and public squares. In the smaller towns and villages, soccer, boxing, cockfighting and amateur bullfighting are also celebrated during the festivities.
Other festivities include Día de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe ("Guadalupe Day"), Las Posadas ("The Shelters", celebrated on December 16 to December 24), Noche Buena ("Holy Night", celebrated on December 24), Navidad ("Christmas", celebrated on December 25) and Año Nuevo ("New Years Day", celebrated on December 31 to January 1). "Guadalupe Day" is regarded by many Mexicans as the most important religious holiday of their country. It honours the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, which is celebrated on December 12. In the last decade, all the celebrations happening from mid December to the beginning of January have been linked together in what has been called the Guadalupe-Reyes Marathon.
Piñatas are unique to Mexican celebrations. A piñata is made from papier-mâché. It is created to look like popular people, animals, or fictional characters. Once made it is painted with bright colors and filled with candy or small toys. It is then hung from the ceiling. The children are blind folded and take turns hitting the piñata until it breaks open and the candy and small toys fall out. The children then gather the candy and small toys.
Mexican cuisine is world-renowned for its blending of indigenous and European cultures. Popular dishes include tacos, enchiladas, Mole sauce, atole, tamales, pozole and burritos. Traditionally the main Mexican ingredients consisted of maize, beans, chicken, pork, beef, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, peppers, chillies, onions, peanuts, avocados and guavas. Popular beverages include water flavoured with a variety of fruit juices, and cinnamon-flavoured hot chocolate prepared with milk or water and blended until it becomes frothed using a traditional wooden tool called a molinillo. Alcoholic beverages native to Mexico include mescal, pulque, and tequila. Mexican-produced beers are popular in Mexico and are exported around the world. There are also international award-winning Mexican wineries that produce and export wine.
The traditional national sport of Mexico is Charreria, which consists of a series of equestrian events. Bullfighting, a tradition brought from Spain, is also popular. Mexico has the largest venue for bullfighting in the world - The Plaza de toros in Mexico City which seats 48,000 people. Soccer is also highly appreciated and is regarded to be the most popular contemporary recreation in the country.
Mexico is also known for its strong boxing tradition, having produced many world champions. Other popular recreational activities include lucha libre (Mexican professional wrestling), baseball, fishing, scuba diving, Jai alai, and basketball.