Get to Know the Holidays: May

May Day - International Workers' Day
In El Salvador, as in much of the world, May 1st is a holiday which celebrates workers.  Labor Day or Día del Trabajo is a paid holiday.  Workers and union activists often hold rallies and marches through the streets on this day.

May 3rd - The Day of the Cross
The Day of the Cross is primarily celebrated in home gardens and in small church ceremonies, and while some towns have grand festivals on May 3rd, the date is not an official or paid holiday.  The tradition of honoring the Day of the Cross is rooted in a Roman Catholic belief (or legend) about the recovery of the Cross of Christ.  During the third century, Saint Helen claimed to have discovered a piece of the cross of Christ during the construction of a church on the hill of Golgotha outside of Jerusalem. There was a story about the preservation of the cross, which had been divided into 3 pieces following the crucifixion of Jesus, with one piece having been sent to Rome, another to Constantinople, and the third remained in Jerusalem. In the 700's, the Jerusalem portion of the cross was reportedly stolen until it was found again in 1816. The Day of the Cross honors the finding of the cross by St. Helen and the re-discovery on May 3, 1816.

Day of the Cross offering given by the family living at the 
Lutheran site on Lago Ilopango

In El Salvador, May brings the rain, and the time of year when indigenous groups gave offerings to Mother Earth and the fertility god, Xipe Totec. This was the time of year when Xipe Totec was dressed in his new skin, taken from an unfortunate human. Fortunately, that is no longer a tradition, but the offerings of seasonal fruits to Mother Earth has been woven into the celebration of the Day of the Cross.  Families make an artisanal cross from local materials and place it outside their homes. They decorate the cross with jocotes, mangoes and other fruits and flowers of the season. 

Day of the Cross offering on a patio in San Miguel Tepazontes (I asked if I could take the photo)

In the Lutheran churches, congregation members often bring flowers and fruits from their homes, and place them into the shape of a cross on a cloth on the floor or in a basket at the base of a cross.  After worship, the women prepare the fruit and everyone enjoys the feast.
 
May 10th - Mother's Day
In El Salvador, the Day of the Mother is celebrated on May 10th (no matter what day of the week it is). Actually, Mother's Day is really celebrated throughout the month of May.  This is the month when appliance stores have really great sales and when flower-sellers are plentiful at every corner. Families often try to take mothers and grandmothers out for a special meal or even on a mini-vacation for a day or a weekend.  The churches always do something special for mothers, often on the last Sunday of the month.

Kids watching as the mothers take a whack at a Mickey Mouse piñata.
Of course the mothers shared the candy with the kids.

"I love you, Mom" - celebration cake after worship on Mother's Day


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