Día de la Candelaria (Day of the Candles or Candle Mass) happens on February 2 and is a Mexican celebration that is a fusion of the Catholic influences and native Mexican tradition.
I was first introduced to it while I was involved with the Paradise Found Yacht Club. We celebrated King's Day on January 6th when someone brought a Rosca de Reyes into the festivities to share with the group. A Rosca de Reyes, (Spiral of Kings) is a kind of a sweet bread with figurines hidden inside. I asked what the figurines were for as they began to appear. “If you get a figurine, you get to help make tamales for everybody at another party next month” was the reply. Some times I do love the way they think down here.
As we were a club, a “committee” was soon formed to make tamales for the next months’ extravaganza which was another success…but what really lies behind this tradition? As it turns out, I may have been a little early putting the Christmas stuff away.
Día de la Candelaria, like many other Mexican celebrations, represents a fusion of pre-Hispanic traditions and Catholic beliefs. Celebrated on February 2nd, it falls forty days after Christmas, and is celebrated by Catholics as the "Feast of Purification" or as the "Presentation of Christ in the Temple." According to Jewish law, it was customary to bring a baby to the temple after that period of time had passed. So Jesus would have been taken to the temple on February second.
February also 2nd marks the mid-way point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. This may be a vestige of an old Pagan Tradition since Feb. 2 has long been thought to be a marker or predictor of the weather to come. Remember that in the States Feb. 2 is celebrated as Groundhog Day….but back to Mexico:
Another important custom in Mexico, particularly in areas where traditions run strong, is for families to own an image of the Christ child, a niño Dios. At times a godparent is chosen for the niño Dios, who is then responsible for hosting various celebrations between Christmas and Candlemas. First, on Christmas eve the niño Dios is placed in the Nativity scene, on January 6th, King's Day, the child is brought presents from the Magi, and on February 2nd, the child is dressed in fine clothes and presented in the church.
We should also note here that Mexican children receive the second round of Christmas presents on Jan. 6, Kings Day. Día de la Candelaria is a follow-up to the festivities of King's Day and Tamales are the food of choice.
Mexican tamales (tamal is the Mexican "singular" use of the word) are packets of corn dough with a Beef, Chicken or Bean filling and typically wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves. The packets are steamed and eaten. Contrary to what is found in most American-Mexican restaurants, most tamales are not served with a sauce, but rather simple and plain.
Evidence shows us that Tamales date back to at least pre-Colombian Mexico and possibly even further. We do know that it is well documented by Friar Bernardino de Sahagun in the 1550's that the Spaniards were served tamales by the Aztecs during their first visits to Mexico. The corn dough is field corn processed with wood ashes in the same manner as it was 700 years ago This processing softens the corn for easier grinding and also aids in digestibility and increases the nutrients absorbed by the human body.
There are many good recipes for Tamales on the Internet and the supplies for making them are widely available. Whether you celebrate Día de la Candelaria here in Mexico or somewhere else, we here at the BajaInsider.com hope you enjoy your day…and your Tamale
by Slade Ogletree