Pope St. John Paul II once said, “For the Church, pilgrimages, in all their multiple aspects, have always been a gift of grace.” The most visited Catholic site in the world, with an estimated 20 million pilgrims visiting annually, is The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The single most important day to those millions of pilgrims is December 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe Day.
What Is Our Lady Of Guadalupe Day?
Our Lady of Guadalupe Day, also known as the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated on that day to honor the belief that the Virgin Mary appeared before a man in Mexico City. According to the Basilica’s recorded history, “The Perfect Virgin Holy Mary Mother of God, our Queen, miraculously appeared out at Tepeyac, widely known as Guadalupe.” The year was 1531. and the Basilica is located near Tepeyac Hill.
The story continues that Mary appeared before an Aztec Indian named Juan Diego just after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. She told Diego that “she was his mother and would take care of all the people of Mexico.”
The story of Mary and Diego has transcended even Catholic legend. The Mythical Humanity of Christ website writes, “it is also a reminder of the mingling of Catholicism and culture since Our Lady of Guadalupe is honored not only by Catholics but by the country of Mexico as well, which lies under her patronage.”
The Virgin Mary is now a part of Mexican culture and part of the historical fabric of its history.
Where Is Our Lady Of Guadalupe Day Celebrated?
Catholics all around the globe celebrate Our Lady Of Guadalupe Day in parishes with Mass, dancing, and celebration.
In the United States, it has been honored as a day of prayer in solidarity with immigrants and refugees since 2016.
In Italy, Catholics gather at what is described as a rundown Basilica San Nicola in Carcere where one of the first copies of the Virgin of Guadalupe is on display. The Catholic News Agency says “the image Our Lady, is believed to be the work of the 18th-century artist Miguel Cabrera ... brought to Rome in the 1770s.”
In France, the renowned Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes marks Our Lady of Guadalupe annually with mass and celebrations.
But no celebration is larger than that of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The day is a statewide public holiday. The entire population is off, and schools and businesses are closed.
How Is Our Lady Of Guadalupe Day Celebrated?
In Mexico, celebrations occur all across the country. At churches everywhere, thousands attend Mass, and children wearing traditional costumes are blessed. The pilgrims descend upon the basilica to see the image of Mary, which many believe to be authentic.
Thomas M. Landy, the founder of Catholics and Cultures writes that “Guadalupe’s famous image, a brown-skinned woman in a starry blue mantle, hands folded in prayer, is ubiquitous in Mexico. She is a remarkable part of believers’ daily lives throughout the year, in their homes, churches, prayers, and community life.”
Landy says the celebrations begin the night prior with tributes in music, words, and dance to mark the Eve of Guadalupe.
On December 12, the day begins with Masses scheduled throughout the morning. Around noon is the special Blessing of the Roses, when the congregation holds roses, and the story of Juan Diego is told, explaining how “Guadalupe told Diego to go seeking an abundance of flowers growing there, and take them to the bishop to prove what hadn’t [been] believed.”
For more on Mexican cultures, traditions, and destinations, see all our Mexico content here.