Santa Marian Kamalen Day, a religious holiday in Guam, happens on December 8 every year and coincides with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It celebrates the Virgin Mary and her carved 350-year-old molave wood and ivory image, Our Lady of Camarin. This is the largest and most popular religious holiday in Guam. The celebrations begin at noon, when people from churches across the region gather outside the Cathedral Basilica, in the capital city of Hagåtña, for the rosary and novena. The crowd is often so humongous that it gathers on the lawn and streets outside the Cathedral instead of trying to fit inside. The celebrations end with a procession through the nearby streets.
History of Santa Marian Kamalen Day
The acquisition of this ivory statue as well as the holiday is shrouded in mystery. Stories passed down orally say that a fisherman discovered the statue lying on the ocean floor. He dove into the water to retrieve it, but as he swam closer, the statue darted away. Thinking it was the ocean current, the man kept swimming toward it, but the statue continued to retreat as he came closer. When the man told his story to his townspeople that night, the local priest suggested he wear his Sunday best instead of the modest fishing garb he usually wore. The fisherman donned his best clothes the next day, and the statue let him approach and bring it back to the land.
There are dozens of stories about how the statue of Santa Marian Kamalen came to Guam, but everyone agrees that the saint Santa Marian Kamalen, which the statue represents, has been a symbol of hope and protection ever since it arrived. Besides being an integral part of Guam’s culture, the statue is also significant to the Catholics in the region, as followers of the faith connect to Jesus Christ through it.
The statue is now kept in a secure location, and a replica has been installed in the cathedral to prevent the original from being stolen again — although the past three thefts have always resulted in the statue being quietly returned or found in a public place.
Santa Marian Kamalen Day timeline
The Spanish galleon believed to be carrying the statue sinks off the coast of Guam.
The image acquires the name ‘Kamalen,’ literally ‘barracks,’ having been stored in a nearby infantry compound after it was found by the fisherman.
The statue is moved from the southern barracks to Hagåtña.
When an earthquake leaves the cathedral in ruins and the other statues broken, the statue of Santa Marian Kamalen is found intact and unharmed on the floor of the cathedral.
A replica of the Santa Marian Kamalen statue is installed in the cathedral to prevent the original from being stolen again.
Santa Marian Kamalen Day FAQs
Who is Santa Marian Kamalen?
She’s the patron saint of Guam and is known by many names such as Our Lady of Camarin and Dulce Nombre.
What does the statue of Santa Marian Kamalen look like?
The statue is portable and lovingly decorated with two crowns, golden jewelry, and a wig of human hair.
When was Santa Marian Kamalen found?
Caretakers of the image rescued it on December 8, 1941, at the beginning of World War II.
How to Observe Santa Marian Kamalen Day
Attend the service
If you’re in Guam, attend the service held at Cathedral Basilica. Gathering with friends, family, and people of your community is a great way to observe this holiday and appreciate its cultural significance.
Guam is a beautiful country with several white beaches and exotic wildlife. During this holiday, which involves a lot of processions and festivities, is the best time to visit Guam.
Pass on the traditions
Take some time to teach children about the history of Santa Marian Kamalen Day, and encourage them to ask questions and be curious. The holiday is more than a religious occasion; it’s built into the culture and history of Guam and can be a source of inspiration and strength.
5 Facts About Guam That Will Blow Your Mind
First European visit
Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, while in service of Spain, is the first European to visit the region, in March 1521.
Guam is part of the U.S.
Guam is an unincorporated and organized part of the U.S., which means that the people of Guam are U.S. citizens but have no voting rights in America.
A soldier in the jungle
A Japanese soldier who fought in World War II hid in the jungles of Guam for 28 years before he was found by a local farmer.
Oldest European city
Hagåtña is believed to be one of the oldest European cities in the Pacific.
The Philippines in Guam
Around 99% of the foreign workforce population in Guam is from the Philippines.
Why Santa Marian Kamalen Day is Important
We love the interesting history and culture behind Santa Marian Kamalen Day. This holiday is a time-honored tradition that adds color to Guam’s culture and heritage.
It’s a wonderful expression of faith
The religious holiday is widely celebrated and very much cherished in Guam. It’s a beautiful expression of the Catholic faith to which most of the citizens subscribe.
It brings the community together
From the morning hangouts with friends and family to the afternoon service in front of the church and the procession through the city, the community is encouraged to enjoy each other's company and companionship. Why not celebrate this day with your community?
Santa Marian Kamalen Day dates