In Torreon there are Spanish serenades, candlelight vigils and many Peregrinación (pilgrimages)walking for blocks to the Church of Virgin de Guadalupe, thousands of Latino Catholics kick off the Christmas season by celebrating the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe -- the patron saint of Mexico -- on December 12th each year. Many of the peregrinaciones are made in traditional Indian attire from different regions of Mexico. This is the 475th year of Juan Diego's visitation of Virgin de Guadalupe.
While the tradition of the Virgin of Guadalupe has no direct link to Christmas traditions, her feast day on the 12th is often regarded as the start of the Christmas season, and is followed by almost nightly celebrations called posadas beginning on the 16th and continuing until Christmas Eve. It is a big holiday for Mexicans, even as big as Christmas. In almost every church in Mexico there is a dedication to the Virgin de Guadalupe. I have seen many at the local churches we have visited.
According to Catholic tradition, the Virgin Guadalupe appeared to Indian peasant Juan Diego in 1531 atop a small hill outside what is now Mexico City. The tradition has it that the Virgin was dark-skinned and spoke to Diego in his native Indian language, and appeared many times thereafter. The Church has recognized the apparitions, and Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego earlier this year.