FRIDAYS OF LENT
Each Friday of Lent, devotees from the neighboring suburbs of Jalatlaco and Xochimilco and inhabitants of the city gathered early in the morning in the Temple of Tepeaca to present the reenactment of the bible narrative: The Way of the Cross. After the ceremony and on their way home people would make a stop at the "Llano Park", where young people would give letters, poems and flowers to the young girls who promenaded in the park. This tradition continues nowadays.
4th Fridays of Lent / Lady of Samaria / March 16th
This holiday commemorates the passage from the Bible in which John the Disciple tells how Jesus, as he rested on the rim of a well, asked a woman from Samaria for a drink of water. Some historians confirm that the tradition began with early Christianity, where they blessed the water brought to them in jars and jugs by those loyal to Christ. This water was then kept in their homes. The tradition has been passed down over time and by the 19th century was celebrated more frequently in many churches like San Francisco and La Merced, here in Oaxaca. Today the scene is recreated in the courtyard of the churches where a statue of Jesus in placed beside a decorated well which is attended by a woman ‘Samaritan’. She is dressed in a ¨china oaxaqueña¨- traditional Oaxacan holiday dress - and serves refreshing drinks like horchata, chilacayota, chía and other flavors. Nowadays this custom is celebrated in schools, public offices, and some homes where they offer not only something but also snacks.
6th Friday of Lent / The Virgin of Sorrows / March 30th
El Viernes de Dolores (literally ´the Friday of Sorrows´) is a day of great devotion in Oaxaca venerating the Virgin Mary as the Mother of Jesus Christ. This holiday dates to the Colonial period when the Jesuit priests consecrated a chapel in their magnificent church to the Virgen de los Dolores. Later two more locations were dedicated to the Virgin, one in the church of El Patrocinio and the other in the church San Cosme and San Damian. The worshipers of the Virgin Mary arrange altars in places of honor in churches, homes, offices and all throughout the city. The most celebrated altars are found in the Oaxacan ´barrios¨of China, Peñasco. Xochimilcon and Jalatlaco. This evening of devotion begins with people singing the misterios – beautiful religious music by Oaxacan composers – and ends with refreshments of fresh drinks such as horchata (made from rice), Jamaica (made from hibiscus flowers) and chia. Often chocolates and sweets rolls as well as appetizers made from fish and other snacks are served to the guests.
Exposition of Banners & Reliquaries / Of the Guilds of Oaxaca / March 31st – April 4th
Among the most valued artifacts and crafts in Oaxaca are the religious Banners and Reliquaries. Members of the Guilds and families traditionally carry these relics in majestic processions organized by groups belonging to the many Catholic churches in Oaxaca. These pieces are magnificent works or art that represent the heritage of the past generations, recording the artistic mixing (arte mestizo) of two sensibilities and cultures: the traditions of the indigenous people and the Spanish who co-inhabited this country when it was known as Nueva España (in the 16th &17th centuries). These Banners and Reliquaries are made of richly colored velvets, ornately embroidered and usually displaying an important icon or religious image. They often display antique coins of gold and silver and ¨milagros¨ (small figures) representing whatever the donors have requested through their prayers. Such art pieces are rarely produced today and can only be seen all together at this time.
Many of the reliquaries you will see on this day have existed since the beginning of Christianity in Mexico. These ancient religious artifacts have endured until today because of the custom of preserving them in small box or special place in the church.
The Reliquaries were really small medallions that the faithful wore around they necks. Often they contained a special relic or a miniature book of the Gospels.
The Banners are also used in the Procession of the silence, on Good Friday, carried through the streets of the historic center of the city of Oaxaca.
Silence Procession / April 6th
The Procession of Silence simulates the passage of Christ carrying the cross through the streets towards the hill where he was to be crucified. The procession has a specific order: it is led by cross bearer and the procession Guilds and families. Following these are the Ladies on the third Order from the Santo Domingo church who accompany the beautiful 17th wood carving from Santo Domingo of the ¨Lord of the Column¨. Next comes a hooded man wearing only a loincloth. He is barefoot and carries a very large and heavy wooden cross. Behind him are the members on the Guild of the Serving Ladies of the Virgin of Sorrows (la Cofradia de las Sirvientas) and the Ladies of the Virgin of Sorrows from Patrocinio Church, (Damas del la Virgen de los Dolores). All bear an attitude of mourning as they accompany the Statue of the Holy Virgin (Santisima Virgen) which is carried by hooded penitents. In the final part of the procession twenty men, members of a Guild, carry large spears bearing motifs of Christ´s passion. This group guards the magnificent sculpture of the Precious Blood of Christ, (Preciosa Sangre de Cristo) wich is worshipped in the church of the same name. The sense of an ancient ritual is evoked as the silence is broken by the constant rhythmic beat of drum.
THE DAY OF THE DEAD
In Mexico the Day of the Dead, also know as All Saints Day, is celebrated on the first couple days of November in honour and commemoration of family members and friends that have deceased.
Some of the characteristic details that highlight this tradition include incense made out of a flower called copal, bread called "bread of the Dead" and cempasuchil, which is the "flower of the Dead" and sugar candy in the shape of skulls. These details create an ensemble that fascinates all of the senses.
One week before the celebration, families buy and collect flowers, candles, skull-shaped candy, incense and foods. These items are then placed as offers on altars that they make in their homes in hope that the deceased will come to savor them. The offers include mezcal, chocolate and Oaxacan mole. The altars also have arcs made of cempasuchil flowers that symbolize the door that opens to the other world.In most parts of Mexico, the celebration lasts two days.
The first day of November commemorates children and the following day is for adults. Some families reunite in cemeteries to dine together and they spend the night in vigil at the cemetery next to the tombs of their family members and friends. Everyone places an offer on the tombs and altars, because it is said that the spirits get angry and punish those that don’t place offers.
NIGHT OF THE RADISHES
The Night of the Radishes (Noche de Rábanos in Spanish) is an annual event in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico dedicated to the carving of oversized radishes (raphanus sativus) to create scenes that compete for prizes in various categories. The event has its origins in the colonial period when radishes were introduced by the Spanish. Oaxaca has a long wood carving traditions and farmers began carving radishes into figures as a way to attract customers’ attention during the Christmas market which was held in the main square on December 23. In 1897, the city created the formal competition. As the city has grown, the city has had to dedicate land to the growing of the radishes used for the event, supervising their growth and distribution to competitors. The event has become very popular, attracting over 100 contestants and thousands of visitors. However, since the radishes wilt soon after cutting the works can only be displayed for a number of hours, which has led to very long lines for those wishing to see the works. The event also has display and competitions for works made with corn husks and dried flowers, which are created with the same themes as those with radishes.