For many Latinos, Catholic rituals and celebrations are deeply incorporated into daily life. These celebrations are often rich with meaning and incredibly diverse, whether it be honoring a community's patron saint or celebrating one of the many Marian devotions that exist throughout Latin America. As we strive to make Catholic schools a place where Latino cultural and religious traditions are celebrated, consider incorporating some of the following holidays and feast days into your school calendar. This list represents just a few of the more significant events that will take place within the first couple months of the school year:
August 15 - The Assumption of the Virgin Mary; “La Asunción de la Virgen María”
On this day we celebrate that Mary was taken up into the glory of heaven not only with her soul, but also with her body. While many schools are not yet in session at this time, for those that are, an easy way to celebrate this is to prominently display a statue of Mary with a vase of flowers at her feet or on a table next to her. Some schools have a Mass celebrating the Virgin Mary as well.
September 13 - Día de los Niños Héroes
Celebrates the Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican–American War of 1847 and the heroic and ultimate sacrifice that the Niños Héroes gave to the nation. While it's not necessary that Catholic schools celebrate this day, it is an important part of Mexican history that is good for educators to know and perhaps acknowledge in some way.
September 16: Mexican Independence Day
While it's often believed that May 5, Cinco de Mayo, celebrates Mexican independence day, the real Mexican Independence Day takes place on this date and celebrates Miguel Hidalgo's "Grito de Dolores", announcing the Mexican revolt against Spanish rule in 1810. Some schools have large food fairs after school to celebrate this important date in Mexican history. At other schools, madrinas will sometimes make and sell favorite Mexican foods, such as tamales and tacos. Here is a list of authentic Mexican dishes that are traditionally prepared to celebrate this holiday.
Oct. 20-28 - Praying the “St. Jude Never Fail Novena”
The Novena to St. Jude is widely known as a series of prayers that a person recites for nine consecutive days with the objective of solving a difficult problem or receiving a gift from St. Jude that otherwise is almost impossible to obtain. Hispanics know about the St. Jude Novena and regard it as a very powerful one. You can see many ads online and in newspapers simply thanking St. Jude for the help received. If you do start the St. Jude novena on October 20, you will be able to end on October the 28, when we celebrate the feast of St. Jude.
While this is far from being an exhaustive list, we hope that it provides a few ideas that Catholic school educators might incorporate into their schools and classrooms in order to celebrate the cultural and religious traditions of many Latino Catholics. We will continue to update this list as the year goes on, so check back soon!