Photo: Altar prepared by Boris, Oaxaca (Some rights reserved)

Reflecting this week on the beautiful, should-be-better-known springtime altars. Kudos to our friend and old neighbor Boris. = Reflexionando esta semana sobre los hermosos altares de primavera que deberían ser más conocidos. Felicitaciones a nuestro amigo y vecino Boris.

Viernes de Dolores (Friday of Sorrows) is a day of great devotion in Oaxaca City and takes place the sixth Friday of Lent, or the Friday before Palm Sunday.

While so much is known and made of the Day of the Dead altars, this celebration draws much less attention. Instead of showcasing prepared food and drink, altars in springtime are decorated with seedlings and sprouts growing from chia pets (monos de chia).

The altars are decorated with clay pots and filled with young seedlings of wheat, corn and lentils planted two weeks before. Other decorations include the friendly chia pets. They have been carefully cultivated so that they have not received much light which gives them a yellow color. Palms symbolize the martyrdom of Jesus Christ.

These altars reflect the the cycle of life in terms of agriculture, just before the start of the rainy season.

The tradition originated in the colonial period, when the Jesuits consecrated a chapel to Our Lady of Sorrows in the Temple of the Company. Other churches that have chapels dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows are Patrocinio, San Cosme and San Damian.

The altars are built in public areas, in markets, houses and churches to mark the sorrow of the Virgin Mary.

The wreaths are made with hearts of palm and are called ‘Spoon Crowns’ because of their shape. These are allegories to the Virgin because it is considered the Queen of Heaven.

Rich smelling herbs such as bay leaves and rosemary are included. The altar is garnished with grapefruit and flags painted in gold and glued with tinsel. Very important are the seven glass spheres of water that symbolize the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin.

The whole altar is decorated with the color purple because it represents the mourning of the Virgin. The flowers are white lilies showing chastity and purity of the Virgin.

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