Candlemas Day: A Tamales Feast in Mexico
Candlemas is a Christian-Catholic festivity widely celebrated by the Mexican population on February 2nd. But, what is it? And why is it so popular among Mexicans?
In a previous article, we shared the importance of the Day Of The Three Kings (or Day Of The Epiphany) in the Hispanic culture. Every 6th of January, Latin American countries and Spain celebrate this day by eating a cake known as Rosca or Roscón that has a small figure of baby Jesus inside. This is the symbolic way of remembering the day the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem to meet the newborn son of God.
In the Mexican tradition, whoever gets the figure must throw a Tamales party on February 2nd, day of the Candlemas or Candelaria in Spanish. How is this related to the birth of Jesus and why is it celebrated?
A Celebration of Jewish and Pre-Hispanic Origin
To better understand the origins of Candlemas, we have to go back in time over 2,000 years to the moment when Jesus was born. According to the Jewish law, after a baby is born, both the newborn and the mom must wait 40 days to visit the temple for the first time and be purified.
Since Jesus was born on the 25th of December and he was born a Jew, Mary and Jesus visited the temple of Jerusalem forty days later, on February 2nd. Baby Jesus was introduced, and the Virgin Mary was purified.
This is the Judeo-Christian tradition. In Mexico, however, there’s also a pre-Columbian tradition associated with the Aztecs. February 2nd marked the beginning of the new year according to the Mexican calendar and honored the gods Tláloc, Chalciuhtlicue and Quetzalcóatl.
Tamales are one of the most popular dishes within Mexican cuisine, and they were already part of their culture even before the arrival of the Spaniards. Legend states that it was from maize that mankind was created.
That’s why, on the 2nd of February, Candlemas Day is celebrated eating tamales. This delicious dish is also present in other important festivities such as Christmas and is usually accompanied by a beverage called atole or hot chocolate.
Why is it called Candelaria in Spanish?
While the Candlemas tradition is known as Día de la Candelaria in Mexico, the truth is that this holiday is also celebrated in other countries on the 2nd of February, but different names are used in different cultures.
Some of the most popular ones are Feast Of the Presentation Of Our Lord Jesus and Feast of The Purification Of The Blessed Virgin Mary. In Spanish, it’s known as Candelaria because Jesus represents the Light that came to Earth to illuminate mankind, just like a candle would.
As shared above, this Mexican festivity perfectly blends Jude-Christian and Spanish traditions with those of pre-Columbian origin.
Now that you know the origins of Día de la Candelaria or Candlemas, if you were the one who got the figure of baby Jesus in the rosca, remember that you’ll have to throw a party on February 2. And don’t forget the tamales! ¡Buen provecho!
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