BAYONNE, NJ - As revelers celebrated the lighting of Christmas trees elsewhere in Bayonne on Wednesday, a small procession made up brightly attired dancers and parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul Church made their way from Broadway along East 45th Street to Avenue C. A large image of Our Lady of Guadalupe led the way.

While the ritual was as joyous as other events in the city, it also had the more solemn feeling of a religious ceremony.

For many, this event celebrating the life of Our Lady of Guadalupe was a reason for joy, accompanied, as Father Hermes Diaz said, by the recognition that Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ, assuring its place as a religious ceremony.

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“They honor the Virgin Mother,” Diaz, parochial vicar at St. Vincent said. “This is our third year doing this, and they show their faith and love of the Virgin Mary.”

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, recognized on the Christian calendar December 12, is largely a Mexican holiday held during the first weeks of December each year, and commemorates the appearance of Mary, the matriarch of Christianity, to a mane named Juan Diego in Mexico City in 1531. 

According to tradition, Mary appeared and spoke in Diego’s native language, asking him to build her a little house on the hill. When he reported these appearances, the local bishop did not at first believe him. The date became a holiday in Mexico in 1859 and Pope Pious XXII crowned Our Lady of Guadalupe “Empress of the Americas” in 1945.

Depicted as a dark skinned woman, the image is a particularly powerful symbol for Latino communities. Encircled by an angel, the moon, and rays of sunlight, the image is also rare in that it is one of the few that shows Mary pregnant with the baby Jesus.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, sometimes called the Virgin of Guadalupe, is a symbol for Mexican Americans for identity, patriotism and devotion. It is often an inspiration for artists of every kind, from dance to painting, but most often, spiritual inspiration as well.

After dance, song, and prayer on the steps of St. Vincent, participants went into the church to attend Mass.

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