Last month, Erika participated in Penpalling & Letters' Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background Section with an excellent article about the celebration of "Día de Reyes" or "Three Kings Day" in Mexico. Following an important Mexican tradition which is connected to January, 6th or "Three Kings Day", Erika decided to write a new article to explain us what is celebrated on February, 2nd in her country.
Hello from Mexico once more! This time I would like to talk about another tradition in Mexico, which is the "Candlemas" or "Candelaria Day". It is a Catholic tradition very popular along the country and it is also a fusion of ancient traditions with Catholic beliefs, since Mexico was a Spanish colony centuries ago. "Candle Mass" name comes from the tradition of bringing candles to the church to be blessed, and this holiday is celebrated on February, 2nd every year.
This holiday is linked to Christmas holidays (yes, we could say that our holiday season finishes on February, 2nd!) and especially to the "Three Kings Day", because on January, 6th it is when kids receive presents and also families get reunited to have some special bread named "Rosca de Reyes". Inside this bread there are hidden a few small figurines that represent Baby Jesus; the people who find them will be the ones to make some "tamales" and "atole" for everyone on Candlemas Day. "Tamal" is a corn flour dumpling filled up with pork, beef or chicken and sauce if they are salty, whereas the sweet ones usually have pineapple or raisins filling; both options are wrapped up in corn husks. "Atole" is a traditional Mexican hot and sweet drink made of milk and thickened with corn flour.
That is only one part of the tradition since in Mexico most of the families own an image of Baby Jesus, also known as "Niño Dios". This image is a doll made of ceramic most of the time which can be small or big (it may go from 8cm to 50cm length). On Christmas Eve a Godparent is chosen by the family and this person will have the responsibility to dress up the "Niño Dios" with nice and colourful clothes that may represent a Saint or just white baby clothes for Candlemas Day.
The Godparent has the mission of buying the whole new outfit for Baby Jesus. I don't know if it is the same in all areas of Mexico, but I can tell, as for my mum, that once that family has chosen the Godparent he or she will have to dress up Baby Jesus for the next 5 years in a row. This year my mum is going for the 2nd year dressing up the ceramic doll of one of her friends.
About the clothes, well it is up to the Godparent to choose which ones to get, but it is also nice to ask to the family if they have any preference as sometimes they might not be devoted of a specific Saint, for example. The only condition is that clothes must be brand new and not the same as the previous year. I like to go with my mum to see all the variety of clothes that some stores sell but also there are many stands on the street selling them from the first days of January.
In Mexico City, there is a street in the city centre called "Talavera Street" that is also known among people as "La Calle del Niño Dios" (Baby Jesus Street in English) because in this street there are many stores specialized in this kind of outfits. You can find there everything you need, from the dress to the socks for Baby Jesus figure, and they have plenty of options to just pick one whole outfit or getting everything separately.
You may wonder about the prices! Well, I asked in Talavera Street and a ceramic doll of 45cm costs an average price of $230 Mexican pesos (about $18.50 USD or €14 Euros) but well, it is not necessary to buy a brand new figure every year. In fact, the family just gets one for several years (let’s say, 10-20 years). If it gets a crack or the colour fades out through the years, there are many places where people restore them for a cheap price and it will be in a perfect condition again.
About the clothes, there is a very wide variety of them and the price also depends on the doll size. In Talavera Street there are some outlet stores, too, which sell designs from past years (every year they release different designs!) at lower prices. I wanted to compare a little bit, and a whole white baby outfit 2011 design for a Baby Jesus of 35cm costs $200 pesos ($16 USD or €12 Euros). I asked in the outlet store for a similar one in the same size that just had the shoes missing and it costs $85 pesos ($7 USD or €5 Euros), so I think it is a good deal since you can get the shoes in any street stand for $5 pesos (like $0.40 USD or €0.30 Euros). Of course, there are many other designs in the stores, the cheapest one costs $20 pesos ($1.60 USD or €1.20 Euros) and the most expensive one I saw costs $420 pesos ($34 USD or €25 Euros) because it has some beads and sequins sew by hand.
Generally, the street stands sell all the accessories needed (like socks, shoes, crowns) but also whole outfits at lower prices than those found at stores. They are lower quality sometimes, but some people can't spend much money for just one day, so they're a great option. I asked for an olive green outfit size 35, and the lady who sells them told me that the price was $60 pesos ($4.80 USD or €3.65 Euros) but she could include all the accessories for the same price if I take it right away. This is a common practice in street stands, and it is not too hard to get good deals.
Now, back to the celebration, when the Godparent has got the outfit, he or she has to dress up the ceramic doll on the previous day to "Candlemas". So, when February, 2nd comes the Godparent and the family who owns the ceramic figure go together to the church to present Baby Jesus ceramic image already dressed up with new clothes, inside of a basket adorned with flowers (the figure can sit down on a chair, too) and candles, or even just one big candle, to get blessed during the special masses that are held on this day in all Catholic churches in Mexico.
After the mass, they go to Godparent's place to have some "tamales" and "atole" to celebrate Candlemas with family and friends.
And I have to say that being Godparent of a Baby Jesus has a very special meaning to some families. It is like if that person was the Godparent of one of their children since it is a strong link between him/her and the family.
Thanks for participating again in P&L Erika! Looking forward to hear from you in the future to share another interesting article with all the readers!
If you would like to read more stories from all over the world don't forget to check the links you can find at the following section: Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background and at Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site and the Sandbook Magazine.
I am always looking for people interested in taking part in Travelling around the World Section, so if you would like to write a post about a feature of your homeland just contact me at: penpallingandletters[at]gmail[dot]com and we will work it out!