The Feast of Candelaria is celebrated annually on February 2 and continues until February 5. Candelaria in English is known in the Catholic Church as the ‘Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ’ because it commemorates the day when His mother, Mary, brought Him to the temple for the first time. The day is both culturally and religiously significant and is cherished in Bolivia.
History of Feast of Candelaria
The Feast of Candelaria has a long history, dating back to the 16th Century. According to a local legend, in 1576, some Inca fishermen were caught in a terrible storm on Lake Titicaca. As they prayed for help, the Virgin Mary appeared and led them to safety. In gratitude, they built a shrine containing a statue of the Virgin, which was sculpted by the Inca craftsman Tito Yupanqui the same year.
Another account of the statue’s origins focuses on the sculptor. It is said that the Virgin of Copacabana, who had appeared to the sailors, appeared in a dream to Tito Yupanqui, who was not a sculptor. But he was so affected by the vision that he set out to learn to sculpt in Potosí. With his acquired skill, he hand-carved the Virgin from the wood of a maguey cactus, carried it by foot for 400 miles, from Potosí to Copacabana, and placed it in an adobe chapel.
During festivals, the courtyard is filled with colorful flowers, and for the feast, pilgrims and dancers come to Copacabana from Peru and across Bolivia. There are traditional Aymar dances, music, drinking, and feasting. On the third day of the feast, 100 bulls are gathered in a stone corral along the Yampupata road, and some of the braver revelers jump into the arena and try to avoid being attacked.
Believed to work miracles, the statue of the Virgin of Candelaria is the most important pilgrimage destination in Bolivia. The holiday has gained global traction in the last century, with much of the effort exerted by Saint John Paul II to integrate the celebration with renewed religious vows.
Feast of Candelaria timeline
The Viceroy of Peru gifts the statue of the Virgin of Candelaria a basket and a gold baton upon his visit to Bolivia.
The then-president of Bolivia, Marshal Antonio José de Sucre, expropriates all the jewels and colonial treasures at the Shrine of the Virgin, using them to create the first coins from Bolivia.
During his papal visit to Bolivia, Pope Pius XI grants the image of the Virgin of Copacabana decree of canonical coronation.
The Fiesta de la Candelaria is declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage (I.C.H.) by UNESCO.
Feast of Candelaria FAQs
Who observes the Feast of Candelaria?
The Feast of Candelaria is celebrated by the catholic community in Bolivia and followers of the religion from all over the world.
How tall is the Virgen de Candelaria?
The venerated statue, Camarín de la Virgen de Candelaria, is made of dark wood and stands approximately four feet tall.
Who can participate in the festival?
Every citizen of Bolivia and even those from other countries around the world are welcome to participate in the festivities of Candelaria. It is a day that provides a platform for all people to jointly celebrate.
How to Observe Feast of Candelaria
Attend the Mass procession
On this day, Mass processions are held. Be a part of it to adequately benefit from the spiritual renewal and blessings of the day.
Participate in the music and dance
Major highlights of this feast are the music and dance done by thousands of people. Join in and let your spirit soar high in celebration.
Prepare a Bolivian feast
The Bolivian cuisine is the amalgamation of ethereal Latin American flavors, prepared with modern techniques. A single meal contains fresh protein, earthy grains, and punchy tamarind. Mark the auspicious days of the feast by preparing one for your household.
5 Facts About Virgin Of Candelaria That Will Amaze You
She is symbolic
The silver ship at the bottom of the altar of the statue represents the moon, while the gold statue above the Virgin’s head symbolizes the power of the sun.
She has vital significance
The Blessed Virgin of Candelaria represents fertility and purity.
Its sanctuary has been robbed before
The sanctuary of Copacabana was robbed and the image of the Virgen de Candelaria was stripped of her gold and silver accessories in April 2013.
Black Madonna depiction
She is depicted as a Black Madonna — statues or paintings in Western Christendom of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus, where both figures are depicted as black.
It has a main sanctuary
The Basilica of Candelaria in Tenerife is the statue’s main sanctuary, a place where it has its origin as a Marian invocation.
Why Feast of Candelaria is Important
It has been passed down through generations
The tale of Candelaria is all about the preservation of one’s faith. When the statue was discarded from the church, it was bought and sold without much care for centuries. Nevertheless, it stood through the test of time and bestowed many miracles on the people who held it.
It brings diverse people in celebration
As a feast for Catholic and Andrean religions, and with open doors for people from other parts of the world, this feast promotes unity. The unity, without a doubt, creates peace and a progressive world.
It confers a sense of cultural continuity
Many citizens of Bolivia who migrated to other places return to their communities to jointly participate in the festival. This makes them reconnect to their roots.
Feast of Candelaria dates