Feast Day Celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City
One of the most lively and spiritual religious celebrations anywhere is that of the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrated in Mexico City on December 12th each year. It is certainly the most significant feast day in Mexico and much of the Americas. Attendance at the shrine in Mexico City can easily top 2 million on that day, and although crowded, it never seems to be over-powering.
If you are traveling around the countryside you will see groups of people walking, bicycling or driving from all parts of the country many days in advance. Everyone seems to try to outdo each other with their gaily decorated trucks, cars and bikes. And many of those walking carry pictures or placards of Our Lady. You will also see runners carrying torches, a tradition that started with the Mexico City Olympics and has carried over to the Feast Day.
It is inspirational and humbling to see the faith of the Mexican people. Many of them are materially poor but spiritually rich beyond words. The night before the Feast Day you will find some of the most famous singers and dignitaries of Mexico at the Shrine to celebrate the event. If you happen to be in Mexico City and cannot make it that evening it is usually televised locally. If you reside in the U.S. or Canada it is televised on one of the Spanish-language stations on your cable TV. Even though you may not understand the language you can still experience the joy of this celebration.
On the grounds of the Shrine itself groups of native Indians in their original costumes as shown here perform the ancient dances of their tribes. They later move inside to the Basilica for Mass.
The new, modern Basilica sets beside the older original Basilica which was gradually sinking (Mexico City itself sits mostly on swampland). Mass is offered almost hourly on this day, with a high Mass around 11:00 a.m. usually presided over by many priests, bishops and several Cardinals.
Outside the Basilica you will see the Popemobile used by Pope John Paul II when he visited the shrine as well as a large statue of the late Holy Father. The older is Basilica is open as well now that some repairs have been made and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament takes place each day. You can also see the simple grave of Saint Juan Diego on the grounds of the Basilica.
Many people like to climb to the top of Tepeyac Hill (shown on the right), where our Lady appeared and which now has a monastery at the top. Thankfully there are now concrete steps leading to the top. But be aware, you are at 7,000 feet altitude in Mexico City so the air is thin and those with breathing problems may wish to forego this experience.It is easy to forget that the shrine in this city of millions was once open countryside. But despite the crowds, you somehow can get a glimpse of how it once was. We encourage you to attend the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe here in Mexico City if at all possible.
Here is a article that one pilgrim wrote about her visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the feast day.
A word about safety: with the negative reports in the media concerning drug violence on the northern border of Mexico some are fearful of traveling to Mexico. While we advise you not to visit the border areas, the interior of the country remains quite safe. Mexico City, like any large city, has its share of crime but if you use common sense then there should be no problems.
Certainly the grounds of the Basilica, despite the crowds, are trouble-free.