Sunday, March 3, 2013

Tamales on February 2nd

In Mexico, it's tradition to eat tamales on February 2nd. Let me explain (with my newly pieced together knowledge -- thank you Google)....

Candlemas is a Christian holiday celebrated on February 2nd. It celebrates the presentation of baby Jesus at the Temple after the traditional 40-day period of purification of Mary following his birth.
Candlemas is also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Feast for the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Meeting of the Lord.

In Mexico people share a rosca, a bread in the shape of a circle or oval with at least one baby Jesus figurine hidden inside, on January 6th for Three Kings Day / Day of the Wisemen (Día de los Reyes Magos). Whoever finds the baby Jesus figure in their piece of the rosca becomes the padrino or madrina (kind of like Godparent) and is supposed to provide the tamales and chocolate (like hot chocolate) or atole (a masa-based drink) on February 2nd.  

But why tamales? And atole? While Mexico is a very Catholic country, many of its traditions and beliefs are the product of sincretismo, the combination of Catholic and Pre-hispanic religions and cultures. Tamales were used as offerings to the gods because they are made of corn, the material used by the gods to create humans. And Atole is a masa (corn) - based drink.  So, while February 2nd is a Christian celebration, it draws upon Pre-hispanic traditions to celebrate.

Coyoacán hosted its Tamal Festival from January 30th - February 3rd, with tamales from all over Mexico and the world. I went on February 2nd with Edson and it was packed! We enjoyed lots of delicious tamales. Unfortunately, we were too excited (hungry?) about eating them to remember to take pictures of what we tried. I think my favorite was a tamal with chicken and mole from Oaxaca. There were the regular savory flavors (mole, bean, with salsa or chile) as well as sweet tamales, such as chocolate or blackberry and cream cheese. 



And this one is for you Josh - Ukraine! 

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