The religious people of Mexico definitely know how to celebrate holy days as they unfold on the calendar. Take Palm Sunday, for example. Where I grew up, outside Chicago in a lovely suburban town, Palm Sunday consisted of some palm fronds maybe being present during the regular Presbyterian church service. Here, in San Miguel de Allende, it’s a whole new ballgame.
People have been preparing for this day for weeks. Townsfolk have woven palm fronds of all sizes into beautiful talismans. Crosses with and without Jesus, with and without glitter, elaborate or simple, with rosemary, chamomile and calla lilies or not – all on offer for ten, fifteen, fifty or even several hundred pesos for the ultimately elaborate weavings. These are sold to the faithful as well as the myriad gringos who have come to witness the processions.
When the time comes, people grip their talismans and begin the slow march from point A to point B. A might be a church and B might be a bigger church. In any case it’s from one blessed location to an even mightier sacred space. With them will be Jesus on a donkey, live or as statuary. The cobblestone streets upon which every one proceeds are lined with colorful flowers and arches of palm fronds put up moments before. In some places chamomile flowers have been strewn so that as the pilgrims walk over them their beautiful odor is released making sweet their steps.
Mother Mary is present and sweets, like oranges, scented stock and other flowers as well as containers of sweet liquid represent her devastated tears of sadness at this outcome for her son. Altars have been set up depicting her sorrow in this way in private gardens, public spaces and private alcoves along the street. Wearing church clothes that highlight the colors red and white, the people hold high their woven palm talismans and sing hymns. Some are totally drowned out by exuberant drum and bugle bands heralding the coming procession.
A priest walks along beatifically slinging holy water out of a pink bucket upon the gathered crowd. I have been so blessed.
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