Happy Candlemas! ¡Feliz Día de la Candelaria!
The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple celebrates an early episode in the life of Jesus, and falls on or around 2 February. In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, the Presentation is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts, and is sometimes called Hypapante (lit., ‘Meeting’ in Greek). Other traditional names include Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and the Meeting of the Lord. In many Western liturgical churches, Vespers (or Compline) on the Feast of the Presentation marks the end of the Epiphany season. In the Church of England, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is a Principal Feast celebrated either on 2 February or on the Sunday between 28 January and 3 February.
In Mexico on the Candlemas (Spanish: Día de La Candelaria) the people who found the baby Jesus doll buried in their piece of a King Cake (Spanish: Rosca de Reyes) on January 5, the night before Three Kings Day, must throw a party on this day for everyone else who ate the same King Cake. Traditionally tamales and atole are served. Also, in certain regions of Mexico, the finder of the baby Jesus doll must present a baby Jesus representation in the local temple. This child must be dressed with fantasy luxury traditional Mexican clothes.
A tamale or more correctly, tamal (Spanish tamal, from Classical Nahuatl tamalli) is a Latin American dish consisting of a starchy dough, often corn-based, which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper. The wrapping is discarded before eating. Tamales can be further filled with meats, cheese, vegetables, chilies or any preparation according to taste, and both the filling and the cooking liquid may be seasoned. Tamales are a traditional Latin American dish of Mesoamerican origin, namely from the Aztec empire. They were one of the staples found by the Spanish when they first arrived in Mexico and were soon widespread by Spanish conquistadores throughout their other colonies. Tamales are said to have been as ubiquitous and varied as the sandwich is today!
Atole (Mexican Spanish, from Nahuatl atolli) is a traditional masa-based Mexican and Central American (where it is known as atol) hot drink. Chocolate atole is known as champurrado. It is typically accompanied with tamales, and very popular during the Christmas holiday season (Las Posadas). The drink typically includes masa (corn hominy flour), water, piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar), cinnamon, vanilla and optional chocolate or fruit. The mixture is blended and heated before serving. Atole is made by toasting masa in a comal (griddle), then adding water which was boiled with cinnamon sticks. The resulting blends vary in texture, ranging from a porridge to a very thin liquid consistency. Atole can also be prepared with rice flour or oatmeal in place of masa. In northern Mexico, there is also a variation using pinole (sweetened toasted corn meal). Although atole is one of the traditional drinks of the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, it is very common during breakfast and dinnertime at any time of year. It is usually sold as street food.
Masa is Spanish for dough, but in Mexico it sometimes refers to cornmeal dough (masa de maíz in Spanish). It is used for making tortillas, tamales, pupusas, arepas and many other Latin American dishes. The dried and powdered form is called masa de harina or maseca (which is actually a commercial brand); it is reconstituted with water.
So, there you go, now you know everything about how we celebrate Candlemas, or “Día de la Candelaria” in Mexico! Tamales were brought to the office this morning, and we all had a feast! Happy Candlemas! ¡Feliz Día de la Candelaria!