Celebrations and Festivals in - 2015-06-24¢  Celebrations and Festivals in Spanish...

Celebrations and Festivals in - 2015-06-24¢  Celebrations and Festivals in Spanish Colonial Alburquerque
Celebrations and Festivals in - 2015-06-24¢  Celebrations and Festivals in Spanish Colonial Alburquerque
Celebrations and Festivals in - 2015-06-24¢  Celebrations and Festivals in Spanish Colonial Alburquerque
Celebrations and Festivals in - 2015-06-24¢  Celebrations and Festivals in Spanish Colonial Alburquerque
Celebrations and Festivals in - 2015-06-24¢  Celebrations and Festivals in Spanish Colonial Alburquerque
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  • Celebrations and Festivals in Spanish Colonial Alburquerque

    Although the Spanish Colonial settlers struggled daily for survival in the harsh reality that was the Kingdom of New Mexico, there was time and need for celebrations and festivals. Those celebrations and festivals found in Alburquerque during the Spanish Colonial era were direct descendants of celebrations and festivals found in Spain during the century which brought the first European explorers and colonizers to the new world. Most of the festivals in Spanish Colonial Alburquerque were centered on the Catholic Church that served as the focal point for daily life in the Kingdom. The entire month of June was known as El Mes de San Juan, the month of St. John referring to St. John the Baptist. Celebrations surrounding various holy saints of the settlers included the appropriate Catholic mass and usually a solemn procession that involved carrying the particular saint around the plaza of Alburquerque followed by the faithful. Not all was sternness, however. The religious activities were usually followed by public celebration that included music, songs and dancing, feasting, children’s games, and men’s contests, which could include horse races, bullfighting, and cockfighting and other contests that

    centered around livestock, all of which might involve a bit of gambling on the outcome. These festivals brought in people from the farms and ranches surrounding Alburquerque and were the occasion of “la gente” (the people) donning their finest clothing and the wealthy flaunting their worldly extravagances.

    The Spanish colonials followed a yearly calendar marked by the holy days of the church and the saints. Las Posadas (“lodging” or “inns”) began on December 16th for nine consecutive nights and were a reenactment of the search by Joseph and the Virgin Mary for lodging in anticipation of the birth of the Christ-Child. The posada began with a procession that sets off as soon as it got dark. Usually a child dressed as an angel headed the procession, followed by two more children carrying figures of Mary and Joseph on a small litter adorned with twigs of pine. Groups of boys and girls followed the lead figures, then came the grown-ups, and last of all, the musicians. Singing or chanting special posada songs, they all walked slowly along, each person carrying a lighted candle, the children sometimes tooting on shrill whistles. When the procession reached the house

  • chosen for that evening, it divided into two groups, one representing the holy pilgrims, the other the innkeepers.

    The pilgrims lined up behind the angel and the children bearing the figures of the Holy Family arrived at a closed door of the chosen house, behind which the innkeepers stationed themselves. The pilgrims knocked on the door and called out in song, asking for shelter. A chorus of voices on the other side asked: "Who knocks at my door so late in the night?" The pilgrims responded, "In the name of Heaven I beg you for lodging - my beloved wife can no longer travel, and she is weary." The response was always a hard-hearted refusal. "This is no inn. Go Away!" After repeated requests for shelter, the pilgrims explained who they are, and that Mary will soon give birth to the Son of God. The innkeepers finally relented and welcomed the exhausted travelers: "Enter, holy pilgrims. Come into our humble dwelling and into our hearts. The night is one of joy, for here beneath our roof we shelter the Mother of God."

    Everyone entered the house and kneeled in prayer, after which the party begun. Small baskets of sweets, called colaciones, were offered along with cookies, and a fruited punch. For eight nights, virtually the same ceremonies were repeated. On the ninth evening, Christmas Eve, a particularly impressive posada took place, during which an image of the Christ Child was carried in by two people who are called the godparents,

    and laid in His tiny crib in the nacimiento.

    The celebration of the birth of Jesus was known as La Noche Buena – the good night. This was marked by a Mass held at midnight, called La Misa de Gallo, the Mass of the Rooster. Children did not receive gifts on Christmas Day but they brought gifts to the crib where the Christ Child lay attended by the Virgin, St. Joseph, the shepherds and the animals. Gifts of candles and coins were left at the crib. On December 28th the feast of Los Santos Inocentes was celebrated. This feast commemorated the search by Herod for the Christ-Child. The day was somewhat like our current April Fool’s Day, as children played practical jokes on their parents and each other. It was customary for one person to ask another for the loan of a coin of small denomination. If the coin was lent, the lender was handed a small broom with which to sweep away the cobwebs from his mind with the admonition “inocente” as one now calls out “April Fool”.

  • Children received presents on the 12th day after Christmas, the 6 th of January, known as El día de los Magos Reyes (the Feast of the Three Kings). This feast commemorated the Three Kings who came from the East bearing gifts for the Christ-Child. Instead of hanging stockings as children do now on Christmas, Spanish Colonial children placed their shoes under the bed with a bit of

    straw in them as feed for the camels the Three Kings rode. In the morning, the children found small toys, candy or fruit in place of the straw in their shoes. On the Friday before Holy Week, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows was held. This was a day of prayers and of fasting, especially for the Penitentes. Los Hermanos Penitentes del Tercer Orden de Franciscanos, who held a special processional, while chanting old Gregorian chants brought over from Spain, stripped to the waist and scourging themselves, led by the acompanadores (escorts), and preceded by a few Penitentes dragging heavy crosses (maderos). A wooden wagon (el carro de la muerte) bore a figure representing death and pointing forward an arrow with stretched bow. This procession went through the

    streets to the church, where the Penitentes prayed, continued their scourgings, returned in procession to the morada. It was the custom to bind one of the brethren to a cross, as in a crucifixion.

    During the Lenten season there also prevailed a custom at the baile (dance) where eggs, previously blown out and re- filled with cologne water or other sweet smelling liquids or confetti, were broken over the heads of friends as a matter of fun. The milestones in life were marked by celebrations centered on the Catholic Church sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, First Communion, Marriage and Extreme unction and burial. Baptism required the selection of padrinos (Godparents), who were to be the spiritual guardians of the child. The event called for a ceremony at the church followed by an open house, a feast and sometimes a dance at the home of the parents. Birthdays were remembered, but the main celebration of the individual occurred during the feast day of the Patron Saint for whom the person was named. Irrespective of how many names a child was given, at least one was a Saint’s name. On the Saint’s day, groups of friends would call, bringing gifts; musicians came to play and sing and frequently a song was improvised to fit the occasion. In appreciation to his friends and

  • family, the honoree gave coins or served wine and cakes to the friends and musicians, Courtship and weddings were an important diversion from the monotony of life in the isolated Kingdom. The rituals surrounding the courtship were detailed and usually very formal, following the customs of the 16th century Spain. Marriages were more often than not, arranged affairs, and among the more affluent class, negotiated with the primary interest being the bonding of influential families. The marriage ritual began with the stating of the interest of the groom, or the groom’s family, in a particular bride. This usually was done by means of a letter or a very structured social call to the head of the bride’s family, usually her father, or in the case of the father being deceased, the uncle, mother or guardian of the bride. Upon the approval of the bride’s father or guardian which would entail a return visit to the groom’s family. Guests at both of these visits would be received very formally and was an occasion for the finest of the households to be presented for food and beverage. A very structured courtship would then begin. A reading of the marriage banns were done in the church and a formal investigation of the suitability for marriage of the bride and groom, called deligencias matrimoniales would be undertaken by the priest. The custom of the time was for the groom to furnish his bride with a complete trousseau. Special marriage chests were carved, decorated and filled with all that was required for a new household as well as attire for soon to be spouse. Negotiation and payment of dowries were taken very seriously and in a businesslike manner. At the time of the announcement of the engagement, a celebration in the bride’s home took place with much music, dancing and food. The wedding ceremony in the church was followed by another celebration with the blessing of the bride’s father or guardian placed upon the union. In some marriages, a further ceremony of velos or a veiling ceremony took place, sometimes months later, wherein the priest would bless the marriage. When a death occurred, the relatives and neighbors of the deceased gathered for an all-night vigil, with a paid chanter of prayers. Follow