Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Candelmas and the Virgin of Candelaria

Las Candelas candelight procession on February 1st in other times. Image: Candelaria Town Hall.

Every year, 2 February, a Public Holiday in Tenerife, sees events staged in honour of the Virgen de la Candelaria (Virgin of Candelaria), the patron of the Canary Islands. The Candelmas Procession [usually] takes place in the town of Candelaria on the night of 1 February, when the lights of the town centre are switched off for worshippers to take part in the candlelit procession. This year, a simple and austere program, adjusted to sanitary conditions, has been organized instead to avoid possible COVID infections. 

The traditional Procession of the Candles will, therefore, not take place, however, Mírame TV will broadcast the Eucharist on Tuesday, February 2, celebrated at noon, which will be presided over by the Bishop of the Diocese of Tenerife, Bernardo Álvarez. During the religious celebration, the Unión Artística El Cabo will enliven the liturgy, led by maestro Israel Espino, also the new musical manager of the Los Sabandeños group.

The Virgin of Candelaria, patron saint of the Canary Islands, is venerated in the Basilica of Our Lady of Candelaria in Tenerife. Image: Koppchen, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Festival of "La Candelaria" (Candlemas) is celebrated every February 2, coinciding with the celebration of the presentation of the Lord and the ritual purification of the Virgin Mary. In the middle of the 5th century this celebration was known as the "Festival of lights". It is not known with certainty when the candlelight processions related to this festival began, but already in the 10th century they were celebrated with solemnity.

The invocation of the Virgen de la Candelaria or Our Lady of Candelaria had its origin in Tenerife (Spain). According to tradition, the Virgin appeared in 1392 to two “Guanche” aborigines who herded her flock. When they reached the mouth of a ravine, they saw that the cattle did not advance. One of the shepherds came forward to see what was happening and saw at the top a small wooden image of a woman, about a meter high. In the image, the lady carried a candle in her left hand and carried a child on her right arm.

Later, this devotion spread and is now celebrated in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela and many more. 

The Virgin of Candelaria is celebrated with music and delicacies. In Spain people celebrate around a bonfire where they prepare grilled meat and chorizo, accompanied by the best wine in the area. In France it is customary to honor the Virgin by eating the traditional crépes