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Published: February 4th 2017
We are enjoying our new home...it's far from any shops or restaurants, but quiet and spacious. I miss the view from our rooftop patio, but not the neighborhood noise. The walk to school has been steep, but very pretty and quiet. Today was sadly my last day of class...I've really enjoyed this school and my fellow students have been very interesting!
This week, Bill and I visited La Fabrica (a fabric mill converted into an arts center, with studios and galleries), hosted new friends, finalized our return plans, and even took an afternoon and evening off and did nothing...
My Spanish teacher told us about Candelaria, a festival that is celebrated on February 2nd. The complexity of the customs is amazing, but the economic hardships they cause families seem unfair. Here's some background and a synopsis:
In Mexico, the Aztec winter solstice festival had traditionally been observed from December 7 to December 26. According to the Aztec calendar, their most important deity, the sun god Huitzilopochtli, was born during the month of December (panquetzaliztli). The parallel in time between this native celebration and the birth of
the Christ lent itself to an almost seamless merging of the two holidays. Seeing the opportunity to proselytize, Spanish missionaries brought the custom of the re-invented religious pageant to Mexico, where they used it to teach the story of Jesus' birth to Mexico's people. In 1586, Friar Diego de Soria obtained a papal bull from Pope Sixtus V, stating that a Christmas Mass be observed as novenas on the nine days preceding Christmas Day throughout Mexico.
Near the beginning of these nine days, is the posadas; the re-enactment of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to give birth. I knew about these traditions, but the baby Jesus doll was new to me. Each traditional Catholic household has a baby Jesus doll. The images of Baby Jesus range in size but most are to the scale or a bit smaller than an actual 40 day old infant. Some have been passed down in families for years. Over the years, they become chipped and the painted faces fade but in many markets and craft stores, the images can be retouched and new ones can be purchased.. During Christmas Eve, before putting the Baby Jesus doll inside the Nacimiento, the posada
party rocks him with a lullaby called “A la rorro niño” (Mexican version of Rock-a-by Baby) that usually comes inside the posada litany sheet booklet. In some regions of México, including San Miquel, people put candy around the Baby Jesus doll so each party member can take one as a treat after kissing the doll respectfully. The doll "sleeps" until February 2nd, when it is "awoken" and brought to church.
On the Dia de la Candelaria
, everyone who has a Baby Jesus to dress up is either choosing an outfit for him to wear at the last minute or is on his or her way to church to have him blessed. In the times of Mary and Joseph (and still practiced by many Mexican women today), it was custom for the mother to have a period of rest and quarantine after birth. The law at the time dictated that a new mother was considered to be unclean during the 40 days after childbirth and therefore required to stay at home.
February 2nd (40 days after December 24th) would have been the day that Mary took newborn Jesus to the temple to be blessed. To remember this important religious event, Baby Jesus
figurines are taken from household nativity scenes (that have been left up since Christmas) and dressed to be presented at the nearest cathedral. While this tradition is slowly dying out in many cities in Mexico, in San Miquel it is still alive.
The dolls are dressed in fine clothing; at times costing more money than some families can spend on their flesh and blood children's clothes. This does not include the baby chairs, sandals, and other accessories that are available to dress the baby in style. Some people choose godparents for their little Jesus who are expected to rock the baby to sleep on Christmas, bring him presents on Three Kings Day and be present at the church blessing on Dia de la Candaleria.
Apart from dressing up Baby Jesus, people also celebrate with fiestas that were arranged on Three Kings Day
back in January. A tiny Niño Jesus figurine about the size of a pinkie finger is hidden in most Roscas de Reyes (Three Kings cake) that are eaten on January 6th. Whoever ends up with the figurine is the appointed person to host the party and serve tamales and atole or hot chocolate on February 2nd. Tamales
, made from maize (what the Aztecs believed was used to first create man) were once used in offerings made to the pre-Hispanic Gods. On the Dia de la Candelaria, tamales are eaten in honor of both Baby Jesus and also the ancient deities, emphasizing the influence of the still present pre-Hispanic traditions and how they mix with Catholic beliefs in Mexico.
The procession of Baby Jesus dolls took place during class hours, and although I walked around around town after class, I didn't spot any. A friend saw two different women carrying the dolls...
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