Feast of the Virgin of Candelaria in the Canary Islands Date in the current year: February 2, 2024

Feast of the Virgin of Candelaria in the Canary Islands Residents of the Canary Islands, especially Tenerife, celebrate the feast of the Virgin of Candelaria twice a year, on February 2 and on August 15. On these days, they honor the patron saint of the archipelago.

The Virgin of Candelaria, also known as Our Lady of Candle or La Morenita, is an image of the Virgin Mary from the island of Tenerife. She is depicted as a Black Madonna in a crown (Queen of Heaven), holding the Child Jesus in one hand and a candle in the other.

According to legend, the original statue of the Virgin of Candelaria was discovered on the beach in Güímar by two Guanche shepherds herding their goats around 1390, almost a century before the final conquest of the Canary Islands by the Crown of Castile. The ruler (mencey) of Güímar identified the statue as Chaxiraxi, the main goddess of the Guanche pantheon, and moved it to a cave that became the first shrine devoted to the patroness of the Canary Islands.

When the Castilians conquered the archipelago, they recognized the statue as the Virgin Mary and named it Our Lady of Candle (Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria) because of the green candle she was holding. In 1497, the conqueror of Tenerife Alonso Fernández de Lugo celebrated the first feast dedicated to the Virgin of Candelaria. The date was chosen to coincide with the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commonly known as Candlemas, because of the tradition of blessing candles on this day.

But where did the second feast of the Virgin of Candelaria come from? The thing is, before the Castilian contest, the Guanches used to worship the statue of the Virgin Mary – who they thought was Chaxiraxi – in mid-August. It was a harvest festival marking the beginning of a new year. When the conquerors began to convert the local population to Christianity, they made it so that the old pagan festival started to get associated with the Christian feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, celebrated on August 15.

The Spanish build a church to host the statue, but it burnt down in 1789. After that, it took almost two centuries to construct a new one for a number of reasons. Finally, in 1949, Domingo Pérez Cáceres, the then bishop of Tenerife, commissioned an architect to design the new basilica. The Basilica of Candelaria was finished in late 1958 and consecrated on February 1, 1959.

Twice a year, on February 2 and on August 15, thousands of pilgrims and tourists come to the city of Candelaria to participate in the celebrations in honor of the patron of the Canary Islands. The celebration includes a solemn Mass in the basilica, a torchlight procession, a reenactment of the discovery of the statue, a fireworks display, and other festive events.

Outside the Canary Islands, the Virgin of Candelaria is venerated in South America, the Caribbean, and the Philippines. She is the patroness of Oruro and La Paz in Bolivia, Medellín in Columbia, Mayagüez and Manatí in Puerto Rico, and the province of Negros Occidentalm, as well as the entire Western Visayas region, in the Philippines.

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