While Christmas festivities are long over elsewhere in the world, Mexico adds a postscript to the holiday season with the February 2 celebration of the Dia de la Candelaria (Candlemas).
Falling 40 days after Christmas Day, in the Christian faith Candlemas is the dual commemoration of the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple and the Feast of Purification of the Virgin Mary.
La Candelaria is the customary follow-up to the January 6 Three Kings Day holiday, the occasion when the “lucky” individuals who plucked a tiny baby doll from a slice of Rosca de Reyes, the traditional Epiphany bread, act as godparents to the Christ Child. Duties entail dressing up a cherished family image of the Baby Jesus in a new outfit for a church blessing and hosting a tamale feast for everyone with whom they shared the rosca.
Other religious practices include attending church for the blessings bestowed upon infant children, the consecration devotional candles, containers of holy water and Bibles used in family rituals.
The festival’s ancient pagan roots tie in with the agricultural cycle, marking the mid-point the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Thus La Candelaria is a date for blessing seeds to be sown for spring crops.