Latinos celebrate the day of mass by candlelight with customs steeped in history

WARWICK – Members of the Latin American community gathered for a bilingual, Spanish and English Mass, February 6, to celebrate Candlelight Mass Day at St. Stephen’s Church, the First Martyr, at Warwick. The celebration has a long tradition and some variations.

The Mass of the Candle (Día de la Candelaria) is celebrated throughout Latin America on February 2, also known as the Feast of the Presentation. It commemorates the presentation of Jesus in the Temple 40 days after Christmas.

Last January 6, the Latino community also celebrated El Dia De Reyes, Epiphany, or the visit to Bethlehem of the Three Kings.

After this mass, everyone gathered in the atrium for refreshments and the breaking of the traditional “Rosca”, a sweet bread.

A small figurine of the Infant Jesus was hidden in the bread, and according to tradition, whoever found the figurine of the Infant Jesus must bring the figurine to the church on the day of the mass by candlelight.

In keeping with this tradition, this year families brought their own “Nino Dios” (an image of the infant Jesus in the form of a doll) to be placed on the altar and blessed by Father Jack Arlotta, pastor of St. Stephen’s, who also joined the parochial vicar, Father Reynor Santiago, in blessing everyone’s throat with candles, an annual tradition on February 3, the feast of St. Blaise,

According to Judy Battista, an advocate for the Latino community in Warwick, the Niño Dios is a tradition of worshiping the Christ Child in Mexico. It took root as soon as it was introduced in the 16th century and then synchronized with pre-Hispanic (indigenous) elements to form unique traditions.

Mexican Catholics have their own images of the Christ Child, who is honored and celebrated during the Christmas season, especially on Christmas Eve and on Candlemas (February 2), which is also the end of the Christmas season.

“Although our Mass in Candelaria was simpler than those held in Mexico,” Battista said, “yet it is important for devout Catholics to carry on this tradition in faith, and it was beautiful.”

A unique tradition in Mexico is to dress the image in new clothes each year for presentation at the Mass of Candlemas.

“This robe,” Battista said, “can vary from depictions of saints, Aztec garments, peasants, and knit infant garments to elaborate silk royal garments of the Infant King Jesus. Some figures are also dressed in doctors, scholars and more.It’s a way for people to have the images that are important to every family in their homes.

Warwick’s Latino community has been celebrating the Niño Dios tradition at a Spanish or Bilingual Mass since it became available in this area about 15 years ago.

However, Battista explained that this and many other religious practices have always been celebrated together in someone’s home.

Bilingual Mass takes place every first Sunday of the month at 6 p.m. For more information, email Judy Battista at

Bilingual Mass takes place every first Sunday of the month at 6 p.m. For more information, email Judy Battista at

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