December 12 is celebrated as The Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe), a popular Catholic feast that is regarded by many in Mexico as the date marking the beginning of the Christmas season. On this day people show their devotion to this major figure of Mexican culture, marked by public celebrations and by Catholics across the nation paying pilgrimage to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It is a time when children will dress in traditional costumes and thousands of people will go to church and pray. So what is the story behind the origin of this festive occasion?
In the early morning of December 12, native of Cuautitlán named Juan Diego went out in search of help for his sick uncle and it was then that he encountered the Virgin Mary twice in Mexico City, in the year 1531, on December 9 and again on December 12. According to legend, a vision of the Virgin Mary appeared to Diego. She began communicating with him in his native language of Nahuatl, advising him to go and visit the local bishop and ask him to build a church.
But the bishop was rightly skeptical and, desiring proof of the encounter, asked for a miracle that would confirm it had happened. When Juan returned to the hill, which previously had contained cacti, he found roses instead. Juan Diego showed the roses to the archbishop Bishop Zumárraga, while also revealing an image that had appeared on his ayate, which is a blanket made of maguey fiber that farmers wore to work. On it was an image of the Lady of Guadalupe.
This was enough to convince the bishop that this was indeed a miracle, and he proceeded to build a church in honor of the event that had occurred. As a consequence of the Virgin’s appearance and subsequent miracle, millions of indigenous people across the nation were apparently converted to Catholicism.
Since then, December 12 has been celebrated as a day of devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe. In 1667, Pope Clemente IX recognized the celebration on December 12 as a holiday, while in 1824, the Congress of the Nation declared the date a National Holiday.
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