Tamales On Candlemas Day

Through my writings in the past you may have learned that Mexico is full of religious festivities and family celebrations.  Here, in fact, Christmas celebrations are not over yet; they conclude on February 2nd, when we celebrate another important holiday: Candlemas day.

Candlemas falls forty days after Jesus’s birth, and is celebrated by Catholics as the the “Feast of Purification” or as the “Presentation of Christ at the Temple.”  In Mexico we celebrate this day by going to the church and then gathering with family and friends.

Tamales are a traditional Pre-Columbian Mexican dish.  In Mexico we have over 200 different varieties of tamales.  Back in the day they were cooked with sweet chile, tomato and seeds, mixed with beef, turkey, pheasant and quails.  Today some are sweetened with molasses, others spiced with mole.  Some are plain, others filled with meats or vegetables.

In its essence, tamales consist of masa (a type of starchy corn dough) that has been wrapped in leaves, then steamed or boiled.  Some come bundled in cornhusks, others in plantain or banana leaves.  My favorites are tamales with huitlacoche (corn smut), with chicken in a green sauce, corn tamales, and tamales with potatoes.

Tamales require hours of preparations.  My family would gather for ‘tamaladas,’ and everyone contributed to the cooking process.  All that teamwork helps explain why tamales are a synonymous of family, love and holidays.

I wish you a wonderful Candlemas day.  Enjoy your tamales!  And please don’t forget to tell me which are your favorites!

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