Christmas Starts Early in Puerto Vallarta
The first twelve days of December in Puerto Vallarta are busy with streets filled with people walking long distance pilgrimages to the church in the center of the city. These walks, sometimes done barefoot, are called peregrinations, which comes from the Latin peregrinari, meaning to travel abroad, invariably with no other mode of transportation than walking. They do so to honor the Virgin, Our Lady of Guadalupe, in which peregrination defines their sojourn.
The Días de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe bring parades and fiestas, with the main grand celebration taking place on December 12th, with no shortage of music, food, drink, and merriment in the streets of Puerto Vallarta.
In 1943, Reverend Don Parra Castillo took over the vicarship in Puerto Vallarta. Reverend Parra Castillo was responsible for many church associated actions, including the construction of the cathedral, surrounding walls and plazas. Reverend Parra installed a dedicated generator for continual electric power to the church; assigned the sculptures for the Stations of the Cross, carved by a renowned Mexico City artist, Jesús Ramirez; restored the fading painting of the Lady of Guadalupe, which he then had properly blessed; added the christening chapel; and remodeled the parish offices, among many other accomplishments. His major undertaking was the famous church tower and clock, to which the elaborate crown was added later. Reverend Parra began annual peregrinations, pulling the community together to contribute to the less fortunate.
There are few organizations in Puerto Vallarta who do not participate in these holidays. Hotels, supermarkets, schools, hospitals, and every fraternal group get involved. These moving displays depict the famous meeting of the peasant Juan Diego and the appearance of the virgin. Those who join the peregrinations arrive at the top of the cathedral steps and, if able, humbly finish the journey on their knees to travel the remaining few meters to the altar.
From the first day of December until the 12th, pilgrimages fill the streets, observed by tens of thousands who come to join in the festivities and make their own personal peregrination. Amazing amounts of food and gifts are offered by those who march, often carrying heavily laden baskets. Truckloads and carts with fruits, vegetables, grains and assorted groceries and household goods are unloaded each day and distributed throughout the community.
This tradition is a marvelous event, even if only viewing from a convenient balcony or on the sidelines from the sidewalk. The pageantry and ceremony are wonderful presentations of how Christmas is celebrated in Puerto Vallarta.
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