Story Behind Some Holidays in Spanish Speaking Countries
ORLANDO, Florida – We’ve all heard of Cinco de Mayo, but do you really know what the day means? It’s more than a reason to drink margaritas and eat tacos.
And Dia de los Muertos? Think you know what La Semana Santa is?
There are several statutory holidays, or los dias de fiesta, and celebrations that are very important when it comes to Hispanic countries and cultures, so this Hispanic Heritage Month we thought we would tell you a little about.
January 6: Dia de los Reyes
Christmas doesn’t end on December 25 in Latin America and Spain – not until January 6 with the Three Kings Day or Dia de los Reyes. The day marks the adoration shown to the baby Jesus by the three kings, a group often called the wise men or magi, who went to the manger and offered gifts. The feast, too, has the alternate names Feast of Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas and Little Christmas. The event is celebrated with gifts and culinary traditions. Children are told to leave their shoes near the door so that the Three Kings can leave gifts for them, and they often leave salt and grass for their camels. Parades and other celebrations also take place.
February 2: Dia de la Candelaria (Mexico)
While it’s not an official holiday, many say the Christmas season in Mexico doesn’t end until February 2. The day is known as el Dia de la Candelaria, or Candlemas in English. According to The Yucatan era, it is based on the Catholic faith, commemorating the ritual purification of Mary 40 days after the birth of Jesus, when the infant Jesus was reportedly taken to the temple to be blessed. Now people dress the figures of Jesus in special outfits and take them to church to be blessed. Often times there are celebrations with family and friends as well, usually with lots of food like tamales. And sometimes the regions organize big parties with parades and bullfights. It’s sort of seen as a follow-up to Three Kings Day.
March-April: La Semana Santa
It is a weeklong celebration that takes place the week before Easter, known as Holy Week. According to USC Annenberg Media, in Spain, processions take place following the events of the Passion of Christ. Some cities have big festivals that also include music and special food. In Mexico, students and workers often have free time around Holy Week. Palm leaves are used to start the celebrations, and there are often re-enactments of the Crucifixation, the most famous of which takes place east of Mexico City. On Good Friday, a kind of bread pudding is served to participants. In Guatemala, the celebrations incorporate both Catholic and Mayan aspects. Much of this is the use of sawdust mats, called alfombras, which are walked on in processions. In Brazil, one of the most remarkable events that takes place in the largest open-air theater in the world, the New Jerusalem Theater. A performance of the Passion of Christ has been held there since 1951. Brazil is also one of the only countries in Latin America to use chocolate eggs to celebrate.
May 5: Cinco de Mayo (Mexico)
Cinco de Mayo is a popular holiday that honors Mexican culture, cuisine, and traditions, while commemorating a historic day. However, this day is not Independence Day, which most believe; Mexico’s Independence Day is actually September 16. Cinco de Mayo describes the battle fought with the French Inquisition in the city of Puebla, near Mexico City, on May 5, 1862. The US military provided weapons to help Mexico defend itself against the French. It’s actually not as high profile in Mexico as it is in the United States, although parades and reenactments usually take place in Puebla.
October 12: Dia de la Hispanidad (Spain)
The official holiday in Spain that reflects Columbus Day in the United States is actually called Fiesta Nacional de España, but is often referred to as Dia de la Hispanidad. Because it falls on the same day as his Armed Forces Day, there is a big military parade in Madrid, according to Enforex. One of Spain’s most popular festivals, the Fiesta del Pilar, also takes place on this day. In other Latin American countries, the day is largely called El Día de la Raza, which is celebrated slightly differently in different countries. In general, most celebrations focus on the culture, history and indigenous peoples of the regions.
November 2: Dia de los Muertos (Mexico)
On this day, also called The day of the Dead, Mexican families welcome the souls of their deceased loved ones for a reunion celebration with plenty of food and drink. Family members leave food and other important items of their lost loved one on altars called ofrendas in their homes. Festivals often use a lot of music, skull masks, and costumes and this is where the Sugar Skull became popular. Dia de Todos los Santos takes place the day before.
December 16-24: Las Posadas (Mexico, Central America)
Las Posadas means “the dwellings”. The nine days leading up to Christmas signify the journey that Mary and Joseph made before Jesus was born. In Mexico, every night there is a designated house and a group representing Mary and Joseph. The group is denied accommodation in several houses before reaching the designated house, at which point they enter and prayer, song and other festivities take place. It continues each night with a different designated house.
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