What is Dia de la Candelaria?

    Candlemas in Mexico

    Introduction

    What is Día de la Candelaria?

    While in the United States, they have Groundhog Day, in Mexico they have Candelaria. Known as Candlemas in English, there are many Catholic countries that celebrate Día de la Candelaria. However, Candelaria in Mexico has special traditions that are only found in Mexico, some of which even date back to the Aztecs.

    When is Día de la Candelaria?

    What is Día de la Candelaria?

    Día de la Candelaria takes place 40 days after Christmas. The holiday is celebrated on February 2nd because, according to ancient Jewish tradition, a woman was considered unclean after giving birth, and was not allowed in the Temple for 40 days after the birth of a child. Therefore, Día de la Candelaria celebrates when the Virgin Mary was allowed to enter the Jewish Temple.

    It also is considered the true end of the holiday season—after Three Kings Day—which signals the complete end of the winter festivals.

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    History of Día de la Candelaria?

    What is Día de la Candelaria?

    Día de la Candelaria is one of the oldest celebrations in Christendom. Historical records attest to festivals held in Jerusalem during the 4th Century C.E. We also have evidence for Candlemas being celebrated in Rome, and other parts of the Roman Empire.

    The themes of purification involved in Dia de la Candelaria meant that it was often combined with other pagan celebrations around that time, such as Lupercalia. Candlemas has since been observed in locations throughout Europe and the Americas.

    Where is Día de la Candelaria Celebrated?

    What is Día de la Candelaria?

    Día de la Candelaria is not an official holiday in Mexico. It can sometimes land on Constitution Day (which is the first Monday in February), but as a holiday, it’s not observed throughout the whole country. However, there are many places that celebrate Día de la Candelaria with special mass services that commemorate the religious holiday.

    One of the typical features of Día de la Candelaria is the eating of tamales. Traditionally, Rosca de Reyes (a special loaf of sweet bread) is served on Three Kings Day—which is celebrated on January 6th. Inside this bread is hidden a tiny figurine of Baby Jesus. Whoever finds this figurine has to host the Candlemas celebration, which includes cooking loads of tamales for the whole family.

    2.gif A Mayan depiction of tamales featured in one of their codices.

    Nowhere is this holiday celebrated more than in a Mexican town on the Gulf of Mexico called Tlacotalpan, Veracruz. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this Mexican pueblo mágico hosts a massive festival of local food and public events. Traditionally, these events included bull runs.

    Another popular location for celebrating Día de la Candelaria is San Juan de los Lagos, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. One of the most visited sites in Mexican Christendom, the cathedral in San Juan de los Lagos is flooded with religious pilgrims for a week-long celebration in the village.

    There is even a neighborhood in Mexico City called La Candelaria. A small section of the borough of Coyoacan, this is considered one of the most traditional neighborhoods in all of CDMX. (It’s not far from the Diego Rivera Museum.) Historical festivals can be found to take place in this area.

    How is Día de la Candelaria?

    What is Día de la Candelaria?

    Generally, Mexican celebrations of Día de la Candelaria include a family gathering where a big dinner is served. The specialty of the night is tamales. As mentioned above, the family that finds the Baby Jesus figurine baked into the Rosca de Reyes has to host the celebration, and thus, they have to provide the tamales.

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    Another custom in Mexico consists of the Baby Jesus doll—called Niño Jesus in Spanish—that was used in the nativity scene of one’s home is then dressed up and brought to the local church, in imitation of the Virgin Mary presenting Jesus to the Temple 40 days after giving birth.

    Conclusion

    What is Día de la Candelaria?

    Though an old custom according to Catholic tradition, Día de la Candelaria is still celebrated in Mexico today. This only goes to show that history is alive in Mexico, the deep-rooted seeds of the Catholic religion are an important part of living as an expat in Mexico.

    If you get the chance, we recommend that you check out a local celebration of Día de la Candelaria to further get to know the wonderful country that has become your adopted home.

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    Raf Bracho

    For several years, Rafael has been crafting articles to help expats and nomads in their journey abroad. He takes great pride in meticulously researching the ins-and-outs of bureaucratic processes in different countries around the world. A digital nomad for almost a decade, Rafael also enjoys exploring cultural phenomena in his articles to better help expats and nomads assimilate. If you have any questions or issues with the content of an article, he’s the one to contact for further information.