viernes, 3 de febrero de 2012

Candelaria Day

Yesterday we celebrated a little-known holiday known as Candelaria Day. The English translation is the equally ambiguous Candlemas Day. The day is to commemorate Baby Jesus's presentation in the temple (Luke 2:21-40). However, the reading clearly states that this took place when Jesus was 8 days old. Why we celebrate this on February 2ed if Jesus was born on December 25th is beyond me. Perhaps just to remind ourselves to not be too literal.

It's a pretty simple holiday all in all. Most people just have tamales for dinner. The more hard-core Candelaria revelers take their Baby Jesus from their nativity scene, dress him up (and many people make or buy him a new set of clothes every year), and take him to church. In the past, I've enjoyed my tamales and watching the little old ladies wander down the street carrying baby dolls tucked under their arms.

However, this year I was invited to a neighbor's levantamiento. This is a whole ceremony for taking the Baby Jesus out of the nativity scene, dressing him up and then sitting him (tying him) to the chair that he'll sit in all year to be displayed on a prominent shelf for the rest of the year.

So at seven o'clock I toted my kids over to Rosario's house. We waited for her family and friends to arrive. Then we prayed a rosary, sang some Christmas carols, and enjoyed the tamales. Simple enough, but I felt blessed to have a friend to invite me over for these cultural insights that I'd miss out on otherwise.

So thanks, Rosario!

And now that Candelaria Day is over, it's now officially time to take down the Christmas decorations!

Theological side note: in observing people with this holiday, I fear that these Baby Jesus dolls (or those of us who have them) walk a very fine line theologically. Another friend of mine mentioned that if you rock the Baby Jesus doll while "adoring" him (a ritual which drives me beserk) whatever you pray for will be answered. To which my friend Rosario responded [and I translate loosely], "Dude--it's a doll. It's just a symbol. God listens to us wherever we are."

Whew! Too true, Rosario! God does know our hearts [not me, I'm honestly not trying to judge here], and he wants us to worship him, not a plastic doll. The doll does NOT have special powers. Careful y'all!

Personal note as background to the theological side note:

I really, really, really do NOT want to sound judgmental. So let me explain myself a little better here (after all, I too have one of these baby Jesus dolls and did enjoy myself at Rosario's house for her levantamiento).

If you know me or have been reading awhile, you may know that I grew up Protestant and am now Catholic. However, before I'd apply those labels, I really consider myself Ecumenical. Really, can't we all just get along? To my personal beliefs, that extends not just to all Christian denominations, but I believe that we all have a lot to learn from each other, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddist, Hindu, and whatever other religions are out there, plus those who claim no faith (because those who have made a conscious decision to not believe in a higher power have some very concrete reasons for that decision and I do respect that and believe I have something(s) to learn from that as well).

In the US (at least among Christian denominations (including Catholics) we do seem to get along. However, the rift between Protestants (often referred to simply as Christians (even by Catholics), implying that Catholics are NOT Christian) just breaks my heart. I understand some of the reasons behind it, but man, oh, man, when you get down to the heart of the matter, we all really do believe the same thing.

I've spent time in both Protestant and Catholic communities in Mexico. While my experience here is very limited, from what I've seen, my church (meaning my current parish) does a great job of religious education. However, it seems that that hasn't always been the case with Mexican Catholic churches and perhaps that isn't the case everywhere. Or perhaps it's just individual families that claim to be Catholic but don't bother to send their kids to catechism or read the Bible, or ask questions of their parish priest when in doubt--yes they may still be Catholic (again, thank goodness it isn't my opinion that matters), but education is soooo important.

Which is why I feel we walk a fine line when we parade around our baby Jesuses. Now, keep in mind, I mentioned that I love to see those little, old ladies carefully cradling their baby Jesuses in the street on Candelaria Day. It's a quirk that makes me happy and I'm confident that the vast majority of those ladies carry their Jesuses as a visual reminder of the baby Jesus was, not because they think the doll itself has magical powers.

But every once in awhile, you find a nutter who does believe that. And yes, she's perfectly at liberty to believe that her doll will grant her every wish.

And I'm at equal liberty to believe that she's bat-shit crazy.

But when this woman publicly declares herself to be Catholic, this is where the damage begins. The Protestants, who generally do a much better job of religious education among themselves, see this woman, correctly claim her to be idol worshiping and then chalk it up that all Catholics are idol worshipers. Not true. These statues and pictures are just visual reminders of the heroes of the faith (or Jesus Himself, of course). It's just like displaying family pictures on the walls of one's home.

But for some, admittedly in ignorance, believe that it's more than that. And it's that belief that further widens the gap of Christian unity in this country and does so much damage. That's where my words of caution stem from.

2 comentarios :

Stephanie G dijo...

I agree with you on the it being just a doll but, I will not judge. Everybody has a right to their own beliefs, right?
We haven't lifted the baby Jesus at our house, yet. I asked if they are waiting on Christmas to get here again or what? Plus, they have 4 Baby Jesus'and the other day, my neice knocked a speaker ove ron them and broke the head and arm off of her Baby Jesus.

Jill dijo...

Too true, Stephanie! Thanks for calling me out on that (and so diplomatically). I'll go back and explain myself better so I don't sound judgemental--the LAST thing I want to be!