The Mexican celebration of Candlemas

Posted by Elizabeth Serafin Berruecos on Feb 4, 2019 4:52:50 PM
Elizabeth Serafin Berruecos

19-0204 Blog Photo 1In Mexico, we eat tamales all year long, but Candlemas on February 2 has its own special traditions. On this day, we celebrate the presentation of Jesus in the Temple by gathering as a community, clothing the Baby Jesus in special garments, honoring him on our family altars and singing the Baby Jesus to sleep.

The godparents of Jesus and the convivio

On January 6, the Church celebrates the Epiphany, the arrival of the three wise men and the revelation of God incarnate in Jesus Christ. The Mexican traditions for Epiphany include a king cake or rosca de reyes. Hidden inside each rosca de reyes are plastic figurines of a baby meant to symbolize the Baby Jesus. Those who find these figurines in their rosca de reyes become the “godparents” of Jesus, and they are the ones who host a convivio or party to celebrate Candlemas and share tamales on February 2.

PHOTO-2019-02-02-22-05-29Clothing the Baby Jesus and honoring him in our homes

In communities like mine, these godparents are also expected to bring a ropón or clothes for baby Jesus. For Candlemas, we change the clothes of Baby Jesus for the year. Placing him in a small wooden chair, we take the Baby Jesus to Mass (calling to mind the journey of Mary and Joseph to present Jesus in the Temple) and celebrate in the evening with songs, prayers and tamales. Throughout the year, you can find these figures of Baby Jesus (my grandmother has two!), sitting on their chairs either on our family altars or in special niches in our family homes. (The photo on the left is my grandmother's family altar with the figures of the Baby Jesus.)

Singing the Baby Jesus to sleep

I started practicing these traditions during my college years while I lived an hour and a half away from my grandparents’ village. My mom’s family belongs to the indigenous group called nahuatl. Our village, Papalotla de Xicohténcatl (nahuatl for the Place of the Butterflies), is where I first sang the Baby Jesus to sleep. The Spanish word for this is arrullar, and it means to soothe someone by holding them and singing.

Choosing godparents for Jesus, celebrating his presentation, clothing the figure of Jesus and singing Jesus to sleep are all very tangible ways of inviting God into our lives. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us so that we might know and love Him in the ways most proper to our human nature. These Mexican traditions are deeply human, and they help us to incorporate Jesus into the lives of our families, treating him as if he were one of us and showing hospitality to him as if he were among us.


Fiesta de la Candelaria, tamales y la levantada del niño Dios

PHOTO-2019-01-21-20-36-15En México comemos tamales todo el año, pero el 2 de febrero es el día en el que celebramos con tamales la levantada del niño Dios.

Aquí algo de contexto, el 6 de enero celebramos con una rosca de reyes, en ésta hay pequeños muñecos de plástico. Quienes encuentran la figura del niño Dios en la rosca de reyes, deben invitar a todos los presentes a convidar los tamales el 2 de febrero. Quienes encontraron al niño Dios, se convierten en los padrinos o madrinas de nuestros niños Dios y deben comprar un ropón o ropita nueva para el niño Dios.

Fue hasta la universidad que empecé a celebrar las costumbres de mi familia materna. En nuestro pueblo, Papalotla de Xicóhtencatl (náhuatl para el lugar de las mariposas) fue donde arrullé y cambié por primera vez a nuestros niños Dios. Niños en plural porque mi abuelita tiene dos, más los de los familiares que celebran con nosotros. 

Las celebraciones navideñas terminan este día cuando los llevamos a misa y celebramos con tamales, cantos y oración.

El Día de la Candelaria mi familia viste al niño Dios con el trajecito de gala con el que se quedará el resto del año. Las tiendas católicas del país tienen una amplia selección de ropita y accesorios de niño Dios.

Ya que no necesitamos excusas para celebrar, los invito a dedicar ese día a una oración o canción a nuestro niño Dios, preparar algún platillo que usen para celebrar, y en comunidad, celebrar.

Topics: Culture, traditions, feast days, en español

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