Soon, Candlemas will be here, February 2nd, and judging from the confused faces I get when I mention it, I guess I have some explaining to do.

Now, I've made passing reference to it before when writing about Three Kings Day, because in the region of Mexico where I come from, and in many other regions of Mexico as well, the person who finds the Baby Jesus in the Rosca de Reyes on Three Kings Day is responsible for a party on Candlemas where both savory tamales and sweet tamales are traditionally served along with a beverage called atole.

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The tradition of Candlemas has deep roots that extend deep into various cultures and religions.

In my Mexican hometown, Candlemas (Día de Candelaria), among other important things, celebrates the presentation of the Baby Jesus in the temple forty days after Christmas. We go to Mass to be blessed ourselves, but also to bring the Baby Jesus dolls from our nativities to be blessed. And rather than wrapped in swaddling clothes, the doll is now dressed in clothes made from beautiful fabrics more fit for a King.

We see this as the official end of our Christmas season and is usually the day we finally pack up our nativities until the next Christmas season. Oh, and then we have that party with all those delicious tamales!

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Both the photo above and the one below come from a Mexican town on a Friday night before a Saturday Candlemas. For about a week before the big day, folks come to the city center to either purchase a new Baby Jesus for the holiday, or buy fresh new clothes for Him, or maybe even have a little repair work done on a porcelain hand or foot. The photo below depicts just one of innumerable stalls where folks are stacked up two rows deep to buy new clothes for their baby Jesus.

Candlemas Clothes

As you can see, there is quite a variety to choose from. In addition to halos, crowns, mitres, and other royal looking vestments, I think I even see one dressed in a surgical mask and scrubs!

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So there you have it. How about you? How does your family celebrate Candlemas? I can't wait to hear about your special tradition.

Silvia Martinez
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