Dia De La Candelaria Day: A Mexican Celebration

– johanna | February 2nd, 2009


January 6th is known as the Christian feast or day of Epiphany. For many it is the day they celebrate Christmas, the day the Magi or Three Wise Men arrived at the manger and presented gifts to the baby Jesus. The Magi leaves gifts on the Eve similar to Santa Clause on Christmas Eve. In Mexico, gifts such as candies are left in their shoes to symbolize the gifts given to Jesus. A feast is prepared and a special cake or Rosca is baked with a tiny doll, (representing the baby Jesus and the quest of the Wise Men to find him) the person who finds the doll in their piece of “Rosca” must throw a party on February 2, “Candelaria Day,” offering tamales and Atole (a hot sweet drink thickened with corn flour).

Día de la Candelaria (Day of the Candles or Candle Mass) represents a fusion of pre-Hispanic traditions and Catholic beliefs. Celebrated on February 2nd, Candelaria Day marks the mid-way point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. The end of the Christmas festivities, when Jesus was presented to the church. Images of baby Jesus are dressed with special clothes and taken to mass. Some areas of Mexico hold a parade, bull fight and dancing.

Here in the states, we celebrate February 2nd as Ground Hog day, the day we anxiously await the appearance of a ground hog to tell us if winter is moving on. So, we decided to combine the two and serve tamales and Atole for dinner. After tasting the Atole, the kids decided hot chocolate would be better.

1/3 cup masa harina blended with 1/4 cup warm water in blender until smooth
3 cups water or milk
5 tablespoons brown sugar or piloncillo
1 pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons vanilla or one one vanilla bean
1 to 2 tablets Mexican Chocolate
1/2 cup pureed fruit (optional)

Heat all ingredients (except for any toppings you may be using) in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat while stirring. Bring to a simmer and continue to stir frequently for 20-25 minutes until thickened. If used, remove the cinnamon stick and/or vanilla bean. Pour into mugs or thick glasses. Warm fruit puree in a small saucepan and drizzle on top of Atole. Serves 2-3

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  1. I was looking this up today because it is 3-Kings-Day and my mother used to celebrate it with the “rosca” when we were kids, but I couldn’t remember what the significance of finding the baby Jesus was. I just wanted to comment that the atole recipe is missing “chocolate abuelita” a type of Mexican hot chocolate that is sold in round bars of chocolate that you can incorporate to the simmer stage and stir until it melts… this gives it a rich chocolate taste that the kids were missing. Try it this way and you will see the difference. I live in New Orleans now and don’t find it in too often here at the grocery stores, but the “Mexican Food Isle” at Wal-Mart usually has it. There are other varieties that can be used Colombian Chocolate Corona, or less known Mexican Chocolate Don Gustavo, that will give the atole an authentic taste.


    Comment by Zandy — January 6, 2010 @ 7:48 am

  2. Thank you for your comment and link. The Atole was definitely missing the chocolate.

    Comment by johanna — January 6, 2010 @ 10:26 am

  3. The atole with chocolate is called champurrado.

    Comment by Sandra — January 6, 2012 @ 11:07 am

  4. Sandra, thanks for that clarification. From what I just read Atole is a corn mesa base. There are varying types of Atole. Champurrado being one of them. A Champurrado is an Atole with chocolate. Is this correct?

    Comment by johanna — January 7, 2012 @ 10:04 am

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