Tamales Day! February 2nd
In Mexico, every 2nd February families and communities get together for a delicious tamales feast, and they dress up their image of Niño Dios (Child Christ) with brand new clothes and take it to the church to be blessed. In many places this celebration also includes parades.
“Día de la candelaria” is known to be the day we are all allowed to eat as much tamales as possible, but do you know why? This celebration has mixed roots in pre-Hispanic traditions and Catholic beliefs.
Día de Reyes follow up
The tamales have to be cooked or provided by one person (or more) selected one month before, on the 6th of January, when another tradition takes place. Día de Reyes or King’s Day, is celebrated in remembrance of the biblical history of three Kings visiting baby Jesus. In this festivity children receive gifts as a symbol of the gifts the Kings gave to Jesus, families eat together Rosca de Reyes, a sweet and special bread containing hidden figurines. Whoever gets this figurines in their slice of bread have to host the Dia de la Candelaria feast.
The origins of the Día de la Candelaria firstly have a religious meaning; it is the day of the presentation of Christ to the temple. The Jewish law said that babies had to be taken to the temple after 40 days because women were considered to be unclean until this period had passed since giving birth. So on 2nd February (40 days after Christmas) Mary took Jesus to the temple along with candles or “Candelas” hence the name “Candelaria”, and it is the day of the purification of the Virgin and the presentation of the Lord. Even though this is a Catholic festivity, Mexico is the only religious country celebrating it by taking images of baby Jesus to the temples.
Pre-Hispanic Mexicans had also a ceremony in the beginning of February and it is believed that Spanish evangelisers used this on their benefit to convert them to the Catholic faith, as it was done with other native traditions. Aztecs had the tradition of paying a tribute to their Rain God “Tlaloc” and the “Tlaloques”(clouds), to pray for rain for their agricultural activities. This was done by fancy dressing children, taking them to the Tlaloc Hill and making them cry as an augury of water abundance. Since this tradition was related to children, it was probably easier for Catholic Priest to link it to their religious celebration.
Long before the arrival of the Spanish, Mexican natives, and people in the Meso-American region consumed tamales, especially in agricultural celebrations.
So now you know a little more about Mexican culture and traditions (and are probably hungry from reading about rosca de reyes and tamales). If you’d like to join the party find your nearest Mexican restaurant and eat as much tamales as you can!
Feliz Día de la Candelaria!