Every December 12th, without fail, my parents would buy a dozen red roses to give to Our Lady of Guadalupe as a gift from our family. The night before, they would remind me that I would have to get up extra early because the celebrations at Mass began at 5:00 a.m. with Las Mañanitas. I love everything about mariachi music: the outfits, the passion from the person who is singing the heartfelt lyrics, and the bellowing trumpets.
But for a middle schooler, 5:00 a.m. did not feel special at all, even if my parents let me go to school tardy.
It was a big ask to get me out of my warm blankets that I was snuggled into, but for the sake of tradition and keeping my parents happy, I would get ready to go. It didn’t help that our parish wasn’t connected to a school, so I was the only kid my age in attendance, which made me feel like our family was probably a little too Catholic.
A Piece of Home at Church
My parents would take our household image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Church to be blessed, along with the red roses. Once I was at Mass, I couldn’t help but burst into song because the ballads sung to Our Lady of Guadalupe by the mariachi, accompanied by the congregation, were so irresistible it could turn any grumpy adolescent into a pleasant one. The lyrics sung to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Spanish made me forget the early wake up call as I happily sang in the language I never had the opportunity to speak at school or outside of our home.
This feast day felt like home to me. Little girls would dress in traditional Mexican outfits with their hair braided with ribbon interlaced on both sides. I loved looking around my parish and seeing the response of the community embracing such a special day for the Hispanic Community. It wasn’t just the tamales that they could enjoy afterwards either; it was a genuine desire to experience honoring Mary together in this way.
Mariachi Music in Honor of Our Lady
The church only played Mariachi music one time per year during Mass on this feast day. I felt so proud of my cultural heritage and beamed with joy as parishioners sang the songs in their best Spanish. Even the priest, whose first language wasn’t Spanish, would participate in the singing, too! I felt seen by our parish community as they welcomed the deep roots of our Mexican Catholic identity. Here under one roof in front of Jesus, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Saint Juan Diego, we all were actively participating in the universality of the Church. I wished every day could be just like this, celebrating the love for our Mother regardless of ethnicity or nationality or immigration status. Just children and heirs to the Kingdom of God receiving a tiny taste of Heaven with Mass, music, and lifting up our prayers.
In hindsight I wish I had had the courage to invite my peers to share about my Mass experience. Instead I just got a tardy pass and went straight to class, keeping close to myself the special morning I had just experienced.
Passing on the Tradition to My Students
When I taught Confirmation for the first time, I purchased roses for my students to offer Our Lady of Guadalupe. I gave them a little background story and then invited them to offer a special intention to her when they placed their rose inside of the vase. I remember feeling so proud in that moment as I prayed that they could feel the love from Our Blessed Mother under a different title. Sometimes the simple invitation helps people grow in the Faith. We can be living the Faith for a long time but can miss out on opportunities to participate because we are waiting to be invited.
This Advent season, visit a local parish that may be celebrating the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe and don’t hesitate to participate. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Queen of Mexico and Mother of the Americas and a reminder that her love transcends skin tone, class, or race. She truly is a mother to us all.
Participate in Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Feast Day
For people in Mexico, this special day is seen as a way for Our Lady of Guadalupe to intercede for us and has been a means of obtaining answered prayers. They travel to the Basilica on their knees as they remember everything she has done for them.
Even if you don’t belong to a parish that celebrates Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day replete with Mariachis, take some time to listen to some Mariachi music in your house. If you’re especially lucky, you may have some friends who will offer you some homemade tamales. You can also find a Mexican market and celebrate with tamales, pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread), atole (drink made with finely ground corn) or champurrado (thick rich Mexican hot chocolate made with corn).
Passing Down Our Lady’s Feast Day
Now that I have children, I dress them up in traditional Mexican outfits and we all go to Mass together. They proudly walk down the aisle and offer their roses to Mary, just like I had done as a child. My son, Diego, is especially proud of his namesake on this feast day, as he loves to hear the story of Saint Juan Diego and Our Lady. It’s like a mini-pilgrimage from the crack of dawn to the moment you step in the church.
I think back to that grumpy middle schooler and am so grateful that my parents persisted in taking me to Mass on Our Lady’s feast day and I am proud that I now get to share the same tradition with my own children.
Prayers to Our Lady of Guadalupe
- John Paul II’s Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe
- Covid-19: A prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe in times of trial
Put it into your heart, my smallest child, that the thing
that frightened you, the thing that afflicted you is nothing:
Do not let it disturb you…
Am I not here,
I who am your mother?
Are you not under my shadow and protection?
Am I not the source of your joy?
Are you not in the hollow of my mantle,
In the crossing of my arms?
Do you need something more?
-Our Lady of Guadalupe, 1531
Listen to Mariachi Music
Watch the Movie
Champurrado (thick Mexican hot chocolate)
Atole (hot drink made with masa: ground corn)
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