Día de la Candelaria – Candle Mass Day in Mexico
Día de la Candelaria (Day of the Candles or Candle Mass) happens on February 2, and is a Mexican celebration that is fusion of the Catholic influences and native Mexican tradition.
I was first introduced to King’s Day on January 6th when someone brought a Rosca de Reyes in to the festivities to share with the group. A Rosca de Reyes, (Spiral of Kings) is a kind of a sweet bread with figurines hidden inside. I asked what the figurines were for as they began to appear. “If you get a figurine, you get to help make tamales for everybody at another party next month” was the reply. Some times I do love the way they think down here.
As we were a club, a “committee” was soon formed to make tamales for the next months’ extravaganza which was another success…but what really lies behind this tradition? As it turns out, I may have been a little early putting the Christmas stuff away.
Día de la Candelaria, like many other Mexican celebrations, represents a fusion of pre-Hispanic traditions and Catholic beliefs. Celebrated on February 2nd, it falls forty days after Christmas, and is celebrated by Catholics as the “Feast of Purification” or as the “Presentation of Christ at the Temple.” According to Jewish law it was customary to bring a baby to the temple after that period of time had passed. So Jesus would have been taken to the temple on February second.
February also 2nd marks the mid-way point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. This may be a vestige of an old Pagan Tradition, since Feb. 2 has long been thought to be a marker or predictor of the weather to come. Remember that in the States Feb. 2 is celebrated as Groundhog Day.
Another important custom in Mexico, particularly in areas where traditions run strong, is for families to own an image of the Christ child, a niño Dios. At times a godparent is chosen for the niño Dios, who is then responsible for hosting various celebrations between Christmas and Candlemas. First, on Christmas eve the niño Dios is placed in the Nativity scene, on January 6th, King’s Day, the child is brought presents from the Magi, and on February 2nd, the child is dressed in fine clothes and presented in the church.
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