WARWICK – Latino community members gathered at a bilingual Mass, Spanish and English, on Feb. 6, to celebrate Candle Mass Day at the Church of St. Stephen, the First Martyr, in Warwick. The celebration has a long tradition and some variations.
The Candle Mass (Día de la Candelaria) is celebrated throughout Latin America on February 2, also known as the Feast of the Presentation. It commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple 40 days after Christmas.
This past January 6, the Latino community also celebrated El Dia De Reyes, the Epiphany, or visit to Bethlehem by the Three Wise Men.
Following that Mass, everyone assembled in the atrium for refreshments and breaking of the traditional “Rosca,” a sweet bread.
A small figurine of the Christ Child was hidden in the bread, and by tradition, whoever found the baby Jesus figurine must take the figurine to the church on Candle Mass Day.
In keeping with that tradition, this year families brought their own “Nino Dios” (an image of the Christ child in the form of a doll) to be placed on the altar and blessed by Father Jack Arlotta, pastor of St. Stephen’s, who also joined with Parochial Vicar Father Reynor Santiago to bless everyone’s throats with candles, an annual tradition on February 3, the Feast of St. Blaise,
According to Judy Battista, an advocate for the Latino Community in Warwick, the Niño Dios is a tradition of venerating the Child Jesus in Mexico. It took root from the time it was introduced in the 16th century and then was synchronized with pre-Hispanic (Indigenous) elements to form unique traditions.
Mexican Catholics have their own images of the Child Jesus, which is honored and celebrated during the Christmas season, especially on Christmas Eve and on Candlemass (2 February), which is also the end of the Christmas season.
“Although our Candelaria Mass was simpler than the ones held in Mexico,” Battista said, “nonetheless, it is important to devout Catholics to carry on this tradition in the faith, and it was beautiful.”.
One tradition unique to Mexico is to dress the image in new clothing each year for presentation at Mass on Candlemass.
“This dress,” said Battista, “can vary from representations of the saints, Aztec dress, peasants, and knit infant clothing to elaborate silk royal clothing of the Baby King Jesus. Some figurines are also dressed as doctors, scholars and more. It’s a way for people to have the images in their homes that are significant to each family.”
The Warwick Latino Community has been celebrating the Niño Dios tradition at a Spanish or bilingual Mass since they became available in this area about 15 years ago.
However, Battista explained that this and many other religious practices have always been celebrated together at someone’s home.
The Bilingual Mass is every first Sunday of the Month at 6 p.m. For additional information email Judy Battista at email@example.com
“Some figurines are also dressed as doctors, scholars and more. It’s a way for people to have the images in their homes that are significant to each family.”- Judy Battista