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.
Another procession will be held Saturday from Santa Ana Stadium to downtown Santa Ana, when the Latino community celebrates Las Posadas. The candlelight procession symbolizes Joseph's and Mary's attempt to seek shelter before the birth of Jesus.
It will be led by Bishop Norman McFarland of the Diocese of Orange and will follow a three-hour Las Posadas celebration at the stadium, sponsored by the Santiago Club.
The program, geared for children, will include dances, puppet shows and pinatas. About 40 volunteers from the Santiago Club have filled more than 1,000 pinatas with candy, which, along with 5,000 toys, will be given to the children.
"This is also an affair that will be attended by many low-income families," said Rodolfo Montejano, chairman of the Santiago Club. "When you see smiles on the children with their pinatas and other holiday treats, you realize how wonderful it is to make Christmas a wonderful thing for young children."
KVEA, Channel 52, will televise the program, which will also feature puppet shows, Disney characters and a variety of Mexican dance groups.