by Bea Lozano
Today, December 12, is a very important day throughout Mexico; seeing the festivities in the streets, you’d think it were Independence Day, or something similar. However, today’s holiday is the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint who has a very strong religious devotion among many Mexicans. The festival celebrates the first time that the Virgin Mary appeared to a Mexican, just after the Spanish Conquest, almost 500 years ago.
I’ll write a little bit more about the history tomorrow. For today, I’ll just focus on the celebration. Every day during several days leading up to Dec. 12, people from small towns and cities all over the country will make pilgrimages either to the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City (see tomorrow’s post) if they can, or to the nearest parish church bearing her name.
In the case of Playa del Carmen, there are two main churches, both dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The one downtown is called “Our Lady of Carmen” but a mile and half out of the heart of downtown is a very large and beautiful, neo-mission style church named “Our Lady of Guadalupe.” People from all the surrounding towns and villages for miles away flock to this church today.
There are processions and parades, people hold prayer vigils and light candles, as well as making household or community shrines to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Of course, there are also extra masses held in all churches, but especially the ones that are named after her, like this one. In the morning, many people will also sing the Mexican birthday song “Las Mananitas” to the Virgin of Guadalupe; the day isn’t considered her birthday, but it’s just a special way of celebrating the importance of this special patron saint! Of course, there are pinatas too.
A friend of mine pointed out that although Playa has many, many expats, Mexican tradition is still very alive here; today the streets are abuzz with festivities and celebration, as they have been for the last few days!
It’s also worth noting that this celebration marks the beginning of Mexico’s 26-day long marathon of Christmas celebrations including Christmas, New Years and the Three Kings Day (Jan 6). Anyone who enjoys the full Spirit of Christmas will not be disappointed by Mexico! From here on in, it’s all festivities for nearly an entire month.
Check in at this blog tomorrow for a few comments on the history.
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