Our Lady of Guadalupe Mexico City
Photographs by Bill and Dorothy Bell
Our Lady of Guadalupe Day
© Tara A. Spears
The magic of the holiday season in Mexico begins December 12 with candlelight processions all over the nation in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico. For the last week, Riviera Nayarit churches have lit fireworks after the evening rosary.
In some towns there have been processions that follow the altar of the Virgin through the streets, with children dressed as Mary or the Indian Juan Diego. Home decorations include a shrine to the Virgin and range from simple to elaborate, with candles, flowers, and other individual touches. T
he celebration often culminates by the faithful awakening before sunrise on the 12th to serenade the virgin at local churches, then participating in a community feast, in which foods like prozole (a pork and hominy stew), atole (a corn-based drink), and many more dishes are freely offered to all.
This holiday is a prelude to Las Posadas, which take place during the nine days leading up to Christmas. Both offer a chance for vacationers to become part of a generous spirit of community celebration, where people with few material advantages have much to give. Participation in these festivities, usually centered at the local church, is an unexpectedly rich bonus beyond the beach.
The ubiquitous image- seen all over Mexico- appears as statues, tattoos, articles of clothing, jewelry and art, is that of a woman standing alone, atop a crescent moon and encircled by rays of the sun. Celebrations in her honor have been held annually for over 400 years on December12th. Guadalupe Day is an important festival for the Mexicans – it is a time when the Mexican Catholics celebrate their religious and cultural identity and to offer thanks to their patron saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The section of most Mexican churches that is consecrated to the Virgin of Guadalupe is known as the santuario. Some towns will have special costumed dancers (lead photo,) known as matachines, that head the processions through the streets dancing and singing, ending the pilgrimage at the altar to lay flowers. Everyone is welcome to join in. Whether you are a believer or not, it’s easy to get into a holiday spirit on Guadalupe Day.