About 200 Mexican Catholics from throughout the region gathered at the Eastern Idaho State Fairground on Sunday for the annual tradition commemorating "Our Lady of Guadalupe," led by Father Jose de' Jesus Gonzalez of Blackfoot's St. Bernard's Catholic Church.
The official feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe - Dec. 12 - is a hugely celebrated religious holiday in Mexico and in Hispanic communities throughout the United States. Catholics contend that on Dec. 9 in the early 1500's that an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared to the poor indigenous Mexican man named Juan Diego.
Devoted Catholics believe that the vision of "Our Lady of Guadalupe" told Juan Diego to gather flowers that were left upon a hilltop. When Juan Diego abided, he found roses that "Our Lady of Guadalupe" wrapped inside his peasant cloak (or tilma). When he opened his cloak four days later - on Dec. 12 - the roses fell to the floor and on the fabric was the image of "Our Lady of Guadalupe."
To this day, Juan Diego's tilma is displayed in Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.
"It is our beautiful story of faith," said Anna Trelles, a Mexican dancer who traveled from Jerome for the celebration. "She is our "Virgen Morena"- our Virgin Mary. She watches over us and is very important to our culture."
The worshipers joined in a traditional Catholic Mass while singing mananitas, (songs of early praise in the morning) and performing traditional Mexican dances. Many left roses at the altar adorned with pictures and religious symbols, representing the roses found by Juan Diego on that faithful day.
The event concluded with much fellowship and a feast of traditional Mexican food such as tacos, tamales, rice and beans and holiday sweets.
"Feliz Navidad, everyone, Feliz Navidad!" exclaimed lifelong Catholic Jose Romero of Shelley. "Today we eat, drink and enjoy one another in celebration of Our Lady. Soon we will celebrate the birth of her son Jesus."