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How to Decorate for Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is a date of great importance for the Mexican and Chicano communities. It marks the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla. People celebrate this significant day by having parades, mariachi music, folklorico dancing - and by decorating.

Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. Rather, it's a Mexican-American celebration of ethnic and cultural pride. The date marks the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, when Mexican soldiers defeated a larger French force that was attempting to take over the country ? and eventually did. France ruled Mexico for the next five years, but the victory at Puebla fired a nationalistic movement that ultimately ended European domination in North America.

The fiesta also includes speeches by government officials, lively dances and games, mariachi music, traditional foods, bullfights, and colorful decorations. At night there are pi±atas for the children and the celebration ends with beautiful displays of fireworks.

Parades usually start around 11 o'clock with a lively marching tune. Marchers dressed as French and Mexican generals lead the way with soldiers following, armed like the original freedom fighters with machetes and old-fashioned rifles. Paraders wearing skirts and flowery hats represent the women (soldaderos) who traveled with the army to cook and care for the men. Those portraying French soldiers carry knapsacks with wine bottles sticking out of them.

1. Make colorful paper flowers with tissue paper and pipe cleaners. Fold six pieces of tissue paper like you would a paper fan. Tie a pipe cleaner around the center, then pull the sheets of paper up to form a flower.

2. Consider making a pi±ata or buying a pi±ata filled with candy (see "eHow to Make a Clown Pi±ata," among others, under Related eHows).

3. Create colorful and imaginative hats for a parade. You can decorate a hat you already own, or make one from scratch from materials you have. Making or wearing a sombrero would be appropriate.

4. Make maracas by filling paper bags with beans and tying streamers on their 'handles.' Or fill a toilet paper tube and tape up both ends after filling with beans.

5. Make lanterns. Take construction paper and decorate with designs using markers or crayons. Fold in half lengthwise, then make cuts 1-inch apart, beginning at the fold and leaving a 1-inch border around the edges, except for at the fold. Roll the paper along the long edge into a circle and staple. Punch two holes in the top and tie a string or piece of yarn through them to make a hanger.

6. ?Sew? up a paper bag poncho. Cut a hole in the paper bag for the head to fit through and cut slits up both sides of the bag. Decorate the bag with markers, crayons, or paints. Glue sequins or fabric bits on the bag, also. You can also create a fabric poncho with an old sheet or other piece of fabric.