Just before Christmas each year, religious pilgrims and tourists alike descend on the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City to catch a glimpse of the image of La Virgen Morena. Although the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe is intended to be a religious holiday, the party goes on throughout the night with dancing, parades, and fireworks. This day is also celebrated in many other cities throughout the country; if you travel to Mexico this December, you won’t have to look very far to find a fun-filled fiesta on the 12th of December!
In 1532, Juan Diego, an Aztec who had converted to Catholicism, witnessed a vision of the Virgin Mary who instructed him to tell the local bishop to build a church on the site of an old pagan temple. Bishop Juan de Zumárraga met with Diego but wanted a sign as proof that the story was true. On December 12th, Diego decided to ask the priest to give the last rites to his dying uncle. Before he could leave, the vision returned promising both a return to health for the ailing uncle and a sign to convince the bishop.Mary sent Diego to Tepeyac Hill to pick roses and place them in his tilma, an outer-garment. Although it was winter, he did as instructed and brought the flowers back to the bishop. When he unwrapped his tilma, it was imprinted with the image of the Virgin Mary. This very item is still displayed in the shrine to Guadalupe at the Basilica. To commemorate this day, thousands of people travel to Mexico each year on December 12th to pay tribute to La Virgen Morena and party in the square in front of the Basilica. In 2002, Juan Diego was officially recognized as a saint in his own right for participating in this miracle.
If you make it to the Basilica, expect to come together with thousands of other visitors as the walls of the 46,000-square-foot atrium seem to swell with the faithful. Even if you’re not religious, your heart will be touched by the spirituality and sense of community that this event creates. After the evening mass is complete, the skies will fill with the light from thousands of fireworks. Enjoy the music and dance the night away because everyone is Mexican on this special night!Although the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe is also celebrated in several American cities, there’s nothing like being at the Basilica on this day.