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Why do we eat tamales on the Day of the Candelaria in Mexico?

By: Elsie Mendez

The corn, the ingredient sacred that defines us as mexicans and pillar of our gastronomic culture, is the element for one of the dishes most ancient of our cuisine: tamales, a word that comes from the Nahuatl tamalli, and that until our days is still a dish emblematic of many regions and populations of the country. Yes, without a doubt is very important but, why do we eat tamales on the Day of the Candelaria in Mexico? What made out exactly this dish which is used for the Catholic celebration of the day of February 2? Let’s see why.

The corn is, according to the book of the Maya Popol Vuh, the item used by the Gods for the creation of men, and give us life. As with the reference one understands because they were the chosen offerings from the pre-hispanic times, and its enormous value as a gift to those who receive it or prepare it.

In this fusion of cultures and beliefs that took place during the conquest of Mexico by the spaniards, and thus of the friars who gave to the task of evangelizing everyone they meet on the way, gave mixtures of traditions, pre-hispanic and catholic that gave rise to the rites with unique features like those that are given during the Day of the Candelaria and the tamales as part of the festivities.

Understand why we celebrate the Day of the Candelaria in the catholic religion. This rite begins with the Christmas which is when the child is born and Jesus is placed in the manger where he will be until day 2 that picks up and dressed to present them to the church. Now, before the 2nd of February, takes place the game of rosca de reyes, which among other things represents the offering of the three kings from the east did to the little messiah, and is represented as a child of plastic that is hidden in the thread.

Those who are lucky to have that in your slice you receive the “Child Thread” (Never, never, Never is a doll!) they become godparents of the child and therefore must offer a festival to raise the child in the crib, and that’s why they offer tamales (Remember that prior to them I mentioned the offerings made by the old settlers with tamales to the Gods?). Those children of God who rise up from the cribs they can dress, and in fact in many traditional markets, there are still jobs where you take your child to God (not the plastic of the thread, but the one in the manger) and dressed with clothes very nice.

It is as well as the feast of the Candelaria is enriched in Mexico with the fiesta of tamales, since these are in reality an offering to the God-Child, as formerly they did to Quetzalcoatl, Tlaloc, and Chalchiuhitlicue. It is, like many great traditions that we follow today, a way in which they joined the traditions of worship of the pre-hispanic cultures with the culture that came in the conquest. Now, really, what is missing is to decide how many types of tamales they want, and what are the favorites.

The truth is that at home you will prepare some tamales swiss chard that are amazing (and here I leave you the recipe), and once in a while, we walk with a craving for some tamalitos shrimp style Nayarit that we found in an old cookbook, and that, if it pleases, by here can find them. But the reality is that the tamales, green and red are always traditional to share.

In a matter of accompanying them, the reality is that a hot chocolate always goes down well, but what is truly classic is to warm up a atolito or, even, taking the corn as a natural part of the night, with a Champurrado as we talked few days ago with the classic recipe.

The tamales of the day of la Candelaria can be a topic of discussion on the imposition of the Spanish culture for some, a matter of consumption of religious holidays for others or a simple pretext to continue eating tamales, regardless of the date although it is grateful for the pretext. However, we like to keep thinking that, beyond the cultural fusion of the natural adaptation of traditions of the past, what we are seeing is how it survives our history through the ingredient that most identifies us.

Now, if you will allow me, I have a tamalito sweet waiting for you at the table.