The Three Kings’ Day Celebration in Cajititlan
The Three Kings’ Day Celebration in Cajititlán
The celebration of the Three Kings’ Day in Cajititlan is a big thing for the people in the village and its surroundings. Cajititlan is a small town next to a lake that has the same name: Lake Cajititlan. The three kings are the patron saints of the town’s Catholic parish, which is part of Tlajomulco’s municipality in the Mexican state of Jalisco (see map further below).
Each year, on the occasion of the Three Kings’ Day, there are feast days with food, other stands, a fair and rides, dances, fireworks, Catholic masses, processions, and thousands of visitors during a few days. Perhaps the peak of the feast days is each January 7 when a three-figure set of the Three Kings in the church take part in a procession that goes around the streets of Cajititlán and continues in a caravan of boats.
When I heard about the celebrations of the Three Kings’ Day in Cajititlan, I decided to go and take some pictures. This time I went by myself. I arrived in Cajititlan on the evening of January 6 and left around midday on the next day, January 7. So in this post I’m sharing my quick trip to Cajititlan, which is about a half hour away from the outskirts of Guadalajara. If you want to see the exact point, you can check the interactive map below.
|Brief note about the Three Kings’ Day
The biblical account talks about the wise men who came “from the east” to worship Jesus in his early childhood and gave him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even though the biblical account doesn’t say who and how many these wise men were, many people know them popularly as the Three Kings or Magi named Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar, and this because of an old tradition. January 6 is celebrated in many countries as the Three Kings’ Day. In many Mexican homes, the three kings are the ones that bring gifts instead of Santa Claus. Also in Mexico it is a tradition to eat the king cake, which is an oval shape bread with candied fruits and has a plastic figurine inside representing the baby Jesus. The person who finds the figurine agrees to host a party and offer tamales and atole on February 2, the Candlemas Day .
The Food and Other Stands
Upon arriving in Cajititlan around 7:00 p.m. I had to pass through a street full of stands selling food, candy, toys, crafts, and more. I made a quick stop at one of the stands and get some tacos de barbacoa and, let me tell you, they were so good!
If you like exotic and strange foods, you should take a look at my post Exotic and pre-Hispanic food at La Cocinita de San Juan.
There were also traditional Mexican toys and art crafts during the Three Kings’ Day in Cajititlan.
The Fair and the Rides
Once I approached the malecon (the walking area next to the lake) I noticed more and more people, but at least there was enough room to walk more comfortably. That section of the town was hosting the fair. I saw moonwalks to bounce in and games such as target shooting, marbles, and all that. There were also fun houses such as the mirror house, time travel, the house of traps, and others. I also saw rides such as the Ferris wheel, bumper cars, a children’s train, and more.
During the Three Kings’ Day in Cajititlan there were about more than a dozen rides.
The Fireworks Display and Dance
After walking around the fair, I went to the plaza in front of the parish. There was a temporary stage for musical groups and other artists. First, there was a show of clowns and then a band or regional music that made people dance around the kiosk (pavilion in the plaza). Later on there was a point when dancing was not possible, in fact, passing through was not possible either. I got stuck and for me when I tried to get out, I felt a few eyeballs on me showing some unpleasant looks after trying to squeeze between some people. But thankfully I was able to get out, walk and breathe again 🙂
When I got inside the atrium of the church, I saw a group of pre-Hispanic music dancers. After their show I noticed two groups of people forming lines that little by little was growing. I approached them and asked. There was free king cake! So I got in line and waited while mingling with people. After some minutes I was eating king cake with the people of Cajititlan.
Around 11 PM, also in the atrium, there were many people gathering for the fireworks show. It is common to have castillos (wooden frames with fireworks) in many places of Mexico during certain holidays and Cajititlan wasn’t the exception. There were several firemen around the castillo ready just in case there were incidents. I also noticed several fire extinguishers around.
After waiting for a short while, perhaps technical problems, the firework show began. The castillo was lit in parts. First the bottom part featuring some circles, then, on the middle, a flower that opened and closed while spinning on fire. Next some more circles, then, near the top, the figures of the three kings and above everything a flower opening and closing and a crown that was released spinning high in the sky. All that happened while the bells of the church were ringing and a music band in the plaza was playing.
After the fireworks display, many people went to the dance on the plaza next to the atrium of the church and that show didn’t end until, I believe, 3:30 AM. After that there were still some people here and there chatting or walking around. And yes, there were a couple ones who were drunk, but there were many police officers around just in case there were any problems.
The castillo (wooden frame with fireworks) was one of the shows that attracted many people to the atrium of the church.
“Las Mañanitas” Song and the Mass
At 5 AM on January 7, I was ready to find out how was that about singing “Las Mañanitas” song to the Magi or Three Kings. And so you know, “Las Mañanitas” song is a Mexican song that people in Mexico sing to someone on his or her birthday or other special occasions such as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
So I was there at five in the morning waiting and nothing. I only saw people sleeping around the church on the atrium and next to some walls. Some were sleeping on card boards, others on thick blankets and even some in camping tents. Most of them were pilgrims, such as Don Benjamin who came from the north of Guadalajara and each year did the same as a faithful believer, not just to worship, but as a volunteer to help with the cleaning. And there were many more who came from other parts of the country.
After walking without seeing a lot of action, except one or two individuals cleaning, I took a walk and came back right before six in the morning. I noticed a regional music band outside the doors of the church and some young men in the tower of the church getting ready to ring the bells. And right at six in the morning the bells were ringing and the music band began to play. There weren’t many people around, “Las Mañanitas” song didn’t have a lot of audience.
At 7 AM I entered the Catholic church to see if there would be something different during the mass. There wasn’t, except that several men in red shirts and dark trousers were invited to stand in front of the audience looking towards the priest. They were there to make an allegiance as the Royal Guard of the Magi. The priest read the allegiance and each man had to follow the reading on a copy they also had. These men had to role of taking the figures of the Magi around the town during the procession.
Later, during the sermon, the priest invited the audience to be more devoted to the Magi. The mass ended with the Eucharist (a rite symbolizing the Lord’s Supper) and the priest announced that the procession would start at 9:30 AM.
After that I went back to the malecon to walk around. I was marveled by some type of bird that I hadn’t seen before. They looked like ducks, but later on I learned they were mud hens (American coots or Fulica Americana). Lake Cajititlan is a place for migratory creatures and other ones that live there permanently. So depending on the season, it is possible to see several creatures.
Some minutes before 9:30 p.m. I went back to the church to see the men of the so-called Royal Guard of the Magi take the figures of the Three Kings on some type of wooden beams to take them out. I mistakenly was thinking they would take the figures of the altarpiece that I was told had been crafted on mesquite wood in 1587 by a Jesuit friar named Alfonso Ponce . But instead, they took other figures of the three kings nicknamed “the pilgrims”, which served to replace the original ones while they were hidden from 1905 to 1932.
And why were the original figures hidden? Some accounts say that on the Three Kings’ Day in Cajititlan, January 6, 1905, the figures were accidentally damaged thanks to a fire caused by a candle. The priest Tiburcio Lozano hid and replaced the figures. However, they were found in 1932 after the priest Rosario Gutiérrez saw an ant’s nest in the sacristy and called a builder to fix the cavity. The builder first dug and found the other figures. The priest’ brother was named to fix the damages the figures had. The day of the discovery is also celebrated each year among the believers of Cajititlan .
Coming back to my trip, the figures were taken to several streets around the town. It caught my attention that the streets were being decorated with effort and devotion by the inhabitants of Cajititlan. I learned later that the locals get together months before to plan how they will decorate their street during the procession on January 7.
I tried to get ahead the procession so I could see it from the front, but a tacos de barbacoa stand obstructed my way. I tried to go around it, but then I ended up sitting on a chair with some tacos stuck in my hand and being moved towards my mouth that I had to eat. But right after I finished those delicious tacos, I was able to hear the procession partying approaching. Some people began to move to the middle of the street forming two narrow lines. Many were dressed with robes and crowns resembling the Magi outfit. I remained on the food stand just in case something was needed.
The first ones to arrive were men, young men, and children wearing black masks wearing velvet robes and a few colorful ribbons. Some had whips or machetes. The girl from the taco stand told me that they were the “morenos” (swarthy). I found out later on that their role was to establish order and ask the most devoted ones to kneel down before the figures of the three kings. It was more like part of the show. They weren’t real enforcers. Some even posed for pictures. Although sometimes they asked people to open the way to the procession.
Besides the believers, the Royal Guard of the Magi, and the morenos, the procession was also formed by the major of Tlajomulco and his associates, journalists and photographers, policemen or other security personnel, music bands and mariachi and the priest and his sacristan and altar boys.
The people in the two lines in the middle of the street knelt down so the Royar Guard of the Magi passed the figures of the three kings above them. Many touched their robes expecting to receive some favor from them.
After that I went back to the malecón so I could be ready for whenever they put the images on the boats, but what a mistake, I went to the wrong side. The figures were taken on the boats in another part of the town, so I had to wait there for more than an hour until the procession finished the tour by boat around the lake. Each boat had the figure of one of the three kings and they were followed by more than twenty boats in a row.
Once the boats arrived at the malecon to bring back the figures of the three kings to the church, the people around would shout things like “long live the saint Magi!”, “long live Melchior!”, “long live Caspar!”, “long live Balthazar!” And I also saw a figure of the crucified Christ being carried, although paradoxically most of the attention was given to the statues of the Magi.
If you like water towns you have to see my pictures in Postcards from Yangshuo.
The Holy Kings Parish and Guadalupe Sanctuary
After the figures of the three kings went back to the parish, I started to head home, but not before I bought a delicious fresh bread that hardly made it back to Guadalajara because I was eating it on the road. That was my short trip during the celebrations of the Three Kings’ Day in Cajititlan.
Talking specifically about Cajititlan and leaving aside its religious feasts, I can highlight its beautiful landscape of the lake and the hills in the background. Its most picturesque part, in my opinion, are the plaza and the two neighboring churches. One of the churches is the Parroquia de los Santos Reyes, meaning the Holy Kings Parish, which dates back to 1770 and is host of the figures of the Magi. The other church is the Santuario de Guadalupe, meaning Guadalupe Sanctuary, which dates back to 1761.
If you like picturesque towns see my pictures of a white and red town in Want to Take a Look at Pátzcuaro?
And this is how it ends this post about the Three Kings’ Day in Cajititlan. I hope it has been interesting to you and even helpful if you ever decide to visit Cajititlan 🙂
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“Tlajomulco De Zúñiga.” Enciclopedia De Los Municipios Y Delegaciones De México. H. Ayuntamiento De Tlajomulco De Zúñiga, n.d. Web. 9 ene. 2016. <http://www.inafed.gob.mx/work/enciclopedia/EMM14jalisco/municipios/14097a.html>(content in Spanish).