Latinos across the county will gather at a dozen Catholic churches today to honor the patron saint of Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Before dawn, church members gather to hold lighted candles and sing "Mananitas," a serenade to the Lady of Guadalupe. The candles represent the light the Virgin Mary has given the Mexican people, said Sister Carmen Sarati from St. Joseph Church in Santa Ana.
After the Mananitas, a special Mass with mariachis is held. In the evening, the congregations have a procession in their neighborhoods in traditional dress. The processions lead to churches for another Mass, after which hot chocolate, Mexican sweetbread and tamales are served.
Our Lady of Guadalupe festivities commemorate the day the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared to Juan Diego, a poor Indian. According to the story, Diego was on his way to Tepeyac Hill, in what is now Mexico City, when the vision appeared on Dec. 9, 1531. The Lady told him to ask the bishop to build a shrine where she stood. But the bishop doubted Diego's story. On Dec. 12, the vision appeared again and told Diego to go to Tepeyac Hill and pick roses. The land on the hill was dry and cracked. The bishop said if Juan found the flowers, the bishop would believe him. Juan cut the flowers and placed them in his tilma , a cape-like garment, and went to show the bishop. As he unraveled the garment and laid the roses at the bishop's feet, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on his cape.