Día de la Candelaria, or Candlemas, is celebrated in Mexico on February 2nd. It is mainly a religious and family celebration, but in some places, such as Tlacotalpan, in the state of Veracruz, it is a major fiesta with bullfights and parades. Throughout Mexico on this date people dress up figures of the Christ Child and take him to the church to be blessed, as well as getting together with family and friends to eat tamales.
Presentation of Christ at the Temple:
February 2nd falls forty days after Christmas, and is celebrated by Catholics as the feast of the Purification of the Virgin or as the Presentation of the Lord. According to Jewish law a woman was considered unclean for 40 days after giving birth so it was customary to bring a baby to the temple after that period of time had passed. Therefore, Jesus would have been taken to the temple on February second.
Candlemas and Groundhog Day:
February 2nd also marks the mid-way point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and has long been thought to be a marker or predictor of the weather to come, which is why it is also celebrated as Groundhog Day in the United States. In many places, this is traditionally seen as the best time to prepare the earth for spring planting.
Día de la Candelaria:
In Mexico, this holiday is celebrated as Día de la Candelaria, known as Candlemas in English, because it was also a time to bring candles to the church to be blessed.
In Mexico Día de la Candelaria is a follow-up to the festivities of Three Kings Day on January 6th, when children receive gifts and families and friends gather together to eat Rosca de Reyes, a special sweet bread with figurines of a baby (representing the Child Jesus) hidden inside. The person (or people) who received the figurines on Three Kings Day are supposed to host the party on Candlemas Day.
Tamales are the food of choice.
Another important custom in Mexico, particularly in areas where traditions run strong, is for families to own an image of the Christ Child, which is called Niño Dios. At times, a godparent is chosen for the Niño Dios, who is then responsible for hosting various celebrations between Christmas and Candlemas. First, on Christmas eve the Niño Dios is placed in the Nativity scene, on January 6th, King's Day, the child is brought presents from the Magi, and on February 2nd, the child is dressed in fine clothes and presented in the church.
See photos of Dia de la Candelaria celebrations.