San Miguel de Allende Festivals
January 6, Tres Reyes Magos or Three Kings’ Day
Even though children in the United States are basking the post-glow of presents from Christmas, kids in Mexico are gearing up for what is most likey their favorite part of the holiday season- Los Tres Reyes Magos, or Three Kings’ Day in English.
Three Kings’ Day falls on January 6, or the Day of the Epiphany. It commemorates the Three Wise Men, Mechior, Gaspar, and Baltazar, who followed the Star of Bethlehem to the manger and Jesus. Balthazar was a Nubian king from Ethiopia, and brought myrrh as his gift. Melchor, the Sultan of Arabia, came bearing gold. And Gaspar was Emperor of the Orient and ruled over all Asian lands; he brought frankincense. These three gifts represented the spiritual wealth of the child; frankincense, which signifies the earth and the sky; and Myrrh, the oil which was used for medicinal as well as spiritual purposes. In some regions, the three kings each have their own feast day—January 8th, 7th, and 6th, respectively.
During this time it is customary to invite friends and neighbors into your home for Rosca de Reyes- a sweet twisted loaf also know as the Wreath of the Kings. Besides the symbolism of the bread as that of the never-ending universe, there is also a small doll, which represents the Christ child being hidden from Herod’s army. Whoever finds the figurine in their slice of sweet bread is then obligated to have a party on February 2nd, Candlemas Day, or Día de la Candelaria. Here they will offer tamales and atole (a hot, sweet drink thickened with corn flour) to their guests. Also on Three Kings’ Day in Mexico, the children will receive the majority of their gifts rathethanon Christmas.
Nacimientos, From Navidad to Three Kings’ Day or Until Día de la Candelaria
Ever since Saint Francis of Assisi built the first nativity scene in an Italian cave in 1223, the scene of the manger has become a staple of the Christmas season everywhere. But the tradition of Nacimientos in Mexico differs greatly from that of the usual 14-piece Nativity scene sold north of the border. In Mexico, sometimes entire rooms of a home are needed for the elaborate settings, comprising of hundreds of pieces constituting a miniature village surrounding the stable. These charming and unusual hand-made figures represent a wide variety of images from women making tortillas, the infidels in Egypt, farmers milking cows, mothers nursing infants, vegetable and pottery merchants and a large variety of shepherds in various events of their day. These figurines are usually made of clay, wax, wood, metal, and fabric, with some even bending the aspect of time to include the Garden of Eden, Saint John the Baptist, Jesus at the well with Mary Magdalene, Mary at the Cross, and other assorted biblical scenes. This religious event wraps up either on Three King’s Day or carries on all the way to Día de la Candelaria on February 2. Then, a great feast is prepared and traditional drinks are served to all the guests.
December 25 to January 6, The Acostamiento Celebration
After the baby Jesus is traditionally placed in the Christmas Nativity scene, in Mexico they have an Acostamiento (which means to place to sleep) party. A godmother/ or a godfather is chosen for the baby Jesus, which is usually dressed in handmade clothing specific for only this event. The fiesta starts with a march led by the godparent presenting the baby Jesus on a decorative platter. Everyone else follows singing traditional lullabies while children carry sparklers to light the path for the procession.
January 6 to February 2, Levantamiento Party Celebration
After the acostamiento, the same godparent is now in charge of the Levantamiento (which means the awakening). With the baby Jesus now standing up or in a sitting position on chair, the godparent now decides on several choices of miniature attire. Among them are the black San Martín de Porres from Peru or as Corazón de Jesús (the bleeding heart) or Niño de Atocha. All around Mexio, these outfits, called huarches, are sold, along with the miniature chairs for the sitting position. When people arrive for the fiesta, they are greeted with trays of rompope in jarritos or ollitas (little pots). Rompope is a traditional Mexican Christmas drink closely resembling eggnog, consistinh of milk, cinnamon, eggs, a bit of alcohol and on occasions almonds. At the end of the party, cookies, peanuts and tejocotes, which are tiny orange-colored fruits, are presented as aquinaldos to the guests.
January 17, St. Anthony’s Day
On this Saint’s Day, people take their animals to be blessed at Church of San Antonio and other churches throughout Mexico. Legend has it that during St. Anthony’s periods of prayer and fasting in the desert, his only companions were the animals. The blessing of animals on the Feast of St. Anthony is considered auspicious, keeping away evil forces from the home, bringing fertility, and regeneration to the land. A Sardinian legend has it that during his life there was no fire in the world and the people appealed to St. Anthony, who went to knock on Hell’s gate, accompanied by his little piglet (the hermit’s only companion). The terrified devils – who knew of his powers and considered him invincible – refused to open the door. The piglet, however, squeezed in through a slit and frolicked about the devils’ abode, tormenting them. Their only solution was to beseech St. Anthony to come into Hell to get the pig! As the Saint and the joyful piglet returned to earth, the Saint’s walking stick caught fire and so warmth was brought to earth. St Anthony’s iconographic symbols in art are the walking stick and the piglet and he is the bearer of fire, that is life.
January 21, Natalicio del General Ignacio Allende y Unzaga
(General Ignacio Allende’s Birthday)
On January 21st., military and civic parades are held to commemorate the birthday of Insurgent hero General Ignacio Allende y Unzaga.
Candelaria Day, February 2, sets the tone for February. It’s a celebration that has its origins in Christianity-it marks forty days, more or less, after the birth of Christ, when he would have been presented at the Temple, also known as Candlemas Day. In San Miguel this day has also come to herald the arrival of spring. Starting February 2, and running for at least a week, Benito Juárez Park is abloom with a huge plant sale. Available for purchase are everything from trees and bushes in pots, plants and flowers for the garden, tiny cactus in tin can planters, and ceramic pots and fertilizer. It’s truly a spectacle as the park is literally overflowing with beauty and a heavenly aroma-don’t miss it!
February 5th is the Day of the Constitution, which is a national holiday. Schools and most businesses are closed on this day.
February 14, San Miguelenses note Valentine’s Day as a day of “friendship and love.”
March 21, the nation celebrates the birthday of their hero and ex-president Dia de Benito Juarez, just after the first day of spring is noted with children’s parades on March 20.
April 2, Image of El Señor de la Columna, Two Sundays before Easter
Viernes de los Dolores, Friday of the Sorrows
Special masses at the Oratorio and San Francisco, and streets fill with families who travel from door to door visiting creative and elaborate home altars throughout town erected in honor of Our Lady of the Sorrows.
Domingo de Ramos, Palm Sunday
Entry procession to 12 o’clock mass in the Parroquia starts in the Parque Juárez at 10 a.m., with music, singing, and fireworks. Houses along Sollano are decorated for the occasion.
The Lesser Days: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week
Special masses held at local churches, with images used in a continuing effort to produce contrition for sin, gratitude, and love for God and Christ, with a Wednesday afternoon procession from the Oratorio to the Church of San Rafael.
Jueves Santo: The Last Supper
On the Day of the Altars, an evening mass commemorates the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. As a part of the devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, worshipers visit seven churches on this day. This is also the day when most businesses close their doors and don’t reopen until after Easter Sunday.
Viernes Santo: Good Friday
Three processions druing the day, including Señor de la Columna, The Way of the Cross, and the Holy Burial, beginning at San Juan, the Parroquia, and the Oratorio, respectively. The image of the Señor de la Columna was carved and painted in 1823 for Atotonilco, and has been used ever since. It is brought to the San Juan church in an overnight procession from Atotonilco to San Miguel two weeks before Easter Sunday.
Domingo de la Resurrección: Easter Sunday
Bells and fireworks announce the arrival of Easter, usually on Saturday evening before the masses even start. Four parts of the Saturday evening mass include the Liturgies of Light, Word, Baptism and Eucharist. Sunday morning masses are small in comparison, and are followed by a big feast. The Jardín is full of people, and Judas figures are filled with fireworks and explode from a line suspended in front of the municipal building.
April 30th is Día del Niño, or Kids Day in Mexico during which children are honored with parties and gifts.
May 1 Labor Day, legal holiday in México
May 3 Feast of Santa Cruz: Day of masons & builders
May 5 The 5th marks the renown holiday commonly referred to as “Cinco de Mayo,” or the Battle of Puebla. Contrary to popular belief, this day does not celebrate Mexican independence, but rather the triumph of a small group of soldiers who successfully defeated a French batallion twice its size near the city of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo honors this defeat, and commemorates its role in the overthrow of the Mexican Imperial Monarchy, which was imposed by Napoleon III, Emperor of France and the Mexican conservatives “Club de Notables”. This monarchy ruled from 1864 to 1867 under the ruler Maximilian of Austria.
The day is an enduring symbol of nationalism and is celebrated both in Mexico and the United States with music, dancing, food and drink.
May 10 marks the arrival of Mother’s Day, or Día de las Madres, in Mexico, (it’s on the 9th in the US) and is celebrated with gusto. Flowers, gifts and special programs at schools mark the event, and it’s common for stores and offices to give out ‘recuerdos’ to the mothers who frequent them on this day. Perhaps most endearing is a practice here in which many Mexican churches feature early morning singing of Las Mañanitas and distribute tamales and atole to all the local moms.
May 15 Day of San Isidro: Patron of Rain & Agriculture
May 20 Ascension Day
May 30 Fiesta at Valle del Maíz
June 19 marks yet another festival in San Miguel de Allende. San Antonio de Padua is honored all over Mexico, but in San Miguel it is often associated with the very popular, Día de los Locos. The festival and parade actually celebrate Spring. The parade of “locos” consists of people from various neighborhoods, businesses and families who don elaborate and colorful costumes that range from political characters and animals to birds and cross-dressing men. They throw inordinate amounts of candy at spectators, and often will convince an unsuspecting bystander to join the party and dance. It starts at the San Antonio church and works its way up Zacateros, Hernández Macías, Insurgentes, Aparicio, Nuñez and down San Francisco to end in the the Jardín.
June 26 Anniversary of the Death of General Ignacio Allende
September 13 Commemoration of the Death of the Child Heroes
This is probably San Miguel’s busiest month of the year for fiestas and holidays. Starting with El Grito on September 15, followed by Independence Day on the 16th, then La Alboradaand Día de San Miguel Archangel.
San Miguel is one of the most popular destinations in Mexico to celebrate Independence Day, filling the streets with visitors. For three hundred years the Spanish ruled Mexico’s people, but on September 15, 1810 Father Hidalgo rang his local church bells and called to the people to reclaim their freedom and fight oppression. Known as el Grito, this speech started the War of Independence that lasted for eleven years, finally returning Mexican government back to its people. On the evening of Sept. 15, the Jardin fills with those wanting to celebrate their freedom and listen to a reenactment of the speech that started the war. Fireworks in the Jardin will follow, and the next day, Sept. 16, all the Independence Day festivities get underway.
On Friday, October 1 the city begins the week-long celebration of its patron saint, Saint Michael the arcangel. Friday night the Alborada is an all night fiesta ending Saturday morning from 4-5 AM with the reenactment of the battle between Saint Michael and Lucifer using fireworks that explode over the Jardín – an event not to be missed in spite of the hour. Later that Saturday, October 2, at 5 PM Entrada de Los Xúchiles (entrance of the flowers) begins at the base of Calle Canal and moves up towards the Jardín. This is a spectacular procession of four floral arrangements that rise 15 meters high, followed by dance groups from all over Mexico donning traditional costumes.
On Sunday, October 3, Feast of San Miguel Archángel, a parade starts at noon in front of Instituto Allende and works its way up to the Jardín. To see beautiful costumes up close, visit the Instituto at around 10 AM to see the dancers getting ready. This day also kicks off the eight day Octava which is a series of processions that takes the statue of Saint Michael from the Parroquia to visit other local churches.
Oct 10 Feast of San Francisco
Nov 1 All Saints Day
One of the most unique and celebrated holidays in Mexico, Día de los Muertos is November 2. Mexicans reflect on death and celebrate their deceased relatives on this day. Unlike most cultures, Mexicans are said to get up close and personal with death, mocking it, laughing about it, embracing it. While the celebrations vary, the common thread includes a traditional altar constructed at people’s homes which pays tribute to deceased family members.
If you go by the Plaza Cívica, you will see the various shops selling a variety of goods specifically for this day, from skeleton-shaped candy and toys to candles and the special bread, Pan de Muertos. There’s also a run on marigolds and tissue paper. All of these are typically used in the home altar and carry special meaning, along with favorites of the deceased, such as a specific food or a bottle of tequila. And the flowers have an additional use—many visit the cemetary and leave a trail of marigolds back to their respective houses, so that the dead will know how to make their way back home. The altars are an offering, a means by which the spirits of the dead pay a holiday visit home are provided with adequate and enticing sustenance for their journey.
If this is your first Day of the Dead in San Miguel, a visit to the local cemetary on the Salida a Celaya will provide insight to the holiday. It’s an awesome display as graves are elaborately decorated and family members congregate around them, chatting, keeping the flowers watered, and spending the afternoon with their loved ones. You’ll also want to take a walk around town on Monday night, as various homes and businesses have their altars on display, such as Instituto Allende, Radio San Miguel, and the Museo Allende.
November 20 is Día de la Revolución, when Mexico commemorates the Mexican Revolution. This national holiday celebrates the fall of Porfirio Díaz from power in 1910 and Mexico’s subsequent rise to a democratic government. The holiday is celebrated in San Miguel with a large parade throughout the city—schools and most businesses are closed. Visitors to the country at this time won’t want to miss this event, true to Mexican patriotism and good, old-fashioned fiesta.
The short story of Díaz’s fall from power is that Francisco I. Madero, in light of his growing following in the north, decided to run for President against Díaz in 1910. Díaz, although a previous proponent of one-term elections, realized his stronghold was at risk, and had Madero arrested, rigging the election to maintain power. When Madero was released from prison, he began a movement which called for a revolt against Díaz on the 20th of November, 1910. Although the revolt failed, Díaz resigned to Madero in May 1911. However, November 20 remains the day on which Mexico celebrates the revolution.
Día de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, December 12
Día de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is the celebration of Mexico’s patron saint, and therefore a very important fiesta. As the story goes, Juan Diego was on his way to church when he heard heavenly music at Tepeyac Hill outside of then Mexico City. When he climbed the hill to find out where the music was coming from, he saw a woman surround by a blinding light. She then instructed him to go and request that a church be built there in her honor by Bishop Zumárraga.
The Bishop did believe Juan Diego and demanded he bring back proof of his vision. Several days later when Juan Diego was rushing to find a priest for his dying uncle, the vision of the Virgin appeared again. She had him wrap roses in his tilma that had miraculously grown at her feet, despite it being winter. He then took these flowers to the Bishop, and as they poured out the image of the Virgin surrounded by the exact constellation in the sky appeared on the fabric. This same tilma is still intact, and is the relic in the Basílica de Guadalupe.
The Virgin of Guadalupe captured the hearts and minds of the indigenous people, whom Spanish missionaries were converting to Catholicism, though she is also identified with the Aztec earth goddess and mother of humankind. Special masses are held all day long, and there are parades, food, and other public events.
Las Posadas December 16 – 24
The next Christmas celebrations are Las Posadas, which take place on each of the nine nights preceding Christmas. This is when many Mexicans reenact the Holy Family’s search for an inn with candlelit processions through the streets. In many neighborhoods it’s customary for homes to take turns refusing lodging to wandering families, with one home acting as the final inn of the Holy Family’s journey. Some businesses and community organizations also host celebrations. The Posadas take the place of the northern tradition of a Christmas Party.
Christmas / La Navidad, December 25
Christmas is typically celebrated extensively, with many Mexicans taking the last two weeks of December off from work, businesses closing and hotels filling up quickly.