SMA: Faith Is Culture
By Joseph Toone
Affirming one’s own religious experience is strengthened by shared litanies and ritualistic formalities. The power of many doing the same things at the same time is a foundation of faith here in SMA.
As a lad raised in Chocolatetown, USA, I relate the power of shared rituals to my childhood concept of Thanksgiving. This holiday creates the heaviest travel day of the year, so Americans can all belong to a group (family, friends, soup kitchen) giving thanks for blessings while enjoying a meal centered on turkey, stuffing, and pies.
Until I moved to SMA, I believed Thanksgiving was strictly a United States holiday, based on pilgrims surviving their first year, despite making the odd fashion choice of wearing belt buckles on their sombreros. However, I learned our neighbors to the north have a similar celebration. Since winter comes sooner in Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated a month earlier, in October.
The SMA version of Thanksgiving, given the warmer climate south of the USA, appears a month later. Specifically on New Year’s Eve when families join together for mass and a grand meal commemorating the blessing of the year past, featuring 12 differently colored candles representing each month. A key shared ritual is eating 12 grapes at 12am while the bells are ringing 12 times. (Note to self: choose the smaller, seedless grapes to avoid choking.)
New Year’s Day then focuses on Divine Providence. “La Divina Providencia” is the act of going to your church and placing pesos in slots marked food, clothing, and shelter, so you’ll have plenty of all three in the year to come. This act is repeated the first of each month in your church, while at home burning out the candle used to represent that month on New Year’s Eve to continue your good fortune.
Each participant recites the following prayer:
“Thank God for life, love, peace, and livelihood, you give me all this. For being who you are, I thank you and trust you. Your Divine Providence extends to every moment of my life, so I never lack shelter, clothing, love, peace, health, food, a true love for you, and your divine sacraments in my last moment.”
On a more daily level, an attitude of gratitude locally is best expressed during the ritual of drinking tequila, expressing the desire for health, money, love, and the time to enjoy them. Cheers and continued blessings!
As the number-one rated local tour guide on culture by TripAdvisor, I provide tours on Thursdays and Fridays at 9am from the Oratorio Church. To learn more about faith and culture in San Miguel, visit CatholicSMA.com, which benefits children’s library and art programs.