Dia de los Flores, Day of the Flowers

Aside from the week leading up to Christmas, there is no greater celebration in Mexico than that of “Semana Santa,” Holy Week.  Only it is now more like “Dos Semanas Santos” as it spans almost two full weeks with the lead-up in preparation and festivities being almost as exciting as the Holy Week itself.

Makeshift flower stalls begin to appear Thursday midday before the festival.

Makeshift flower stalls begin to appear Thursday midday before the festival.

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In Guanajuato, the Easter holiday kicks off with “Dia de los Flores,” or “Day of the Flowers,” as a prelude to Holy Week.   The festival is a two part event filled with a dichotomy of gaiety and sorrow.   Sometimes, it’s tough to sort out the emotions, as people stroll through the streets arm and arm with balloons and toys eating ice cream as if it were the 4th of July.   Then, the orchestra in the bandstand strikes up a mournful tune reminiscent of a funeral march, a reminder that it’s all about a crucifixion.  I’m not a religious person, let alone Catholic, so these traditions are new to me.  I don’t know whether to grin with delight from the festival atmosphere, or wipe the smile off my face out of respect.  Such is the nature of the 24 hour “Day of the Flowers.”

Streets are closed to vehicular traffic as vendors line the sidewalks with eggs, baskets, toys, etc.

Streets are closed to vehicular traffic as vendors line the sidewalks with eggs, baskets, toys, etc.

The crowds aren't too bad in the early afternoon, but of course they get heavier as the afternoon gives way to evening.

The crowds aren’t too bad in the early afternoon, but of course they get heavier as the afternoon gives way to evening.

All these baskets contain confetti-filled eggs.

All these baskets contain confetti-filled eggs.

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The Friday festival starts ramping up on Thursday afternoon, as vendors begin setting up their tables, blankets, and chairs to display their wares.   Flower vendors rim the entire Jardin de Union, the triangular shaped tree-filled heart of the city.   There are white carnations, tall stalks of Easter lilies, buckets of red, pink, coral, and yellow roses, giant sunflowers the size of dinner plates…bursts of color in every direction.  The heady perfume from the mix of sweet, spicy scents wafting through the air rivals the most elaborate of florist shops.  I can honestly say I’ve never seen this many flowers in one place at one time before.

Jardin de Union, the main triangular-shaped square becomes "flower central" as flower vendors line both sides of the streets.

Jardin de Union, the main triangular-shaped square becomes “flower central” as flower vendors line both sides of the streets.

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I wander the streets watching the festivities unfold in what appears to be “districts.”  The majority of the flowers are concentrated in the Jardin Union, with a few spilling over into the small Plaza Baratillo a block away.

As I walk down the main street of Benito Juarez, I come to the “toy district,” with eggs and Easter baskets lining the sidewalks for as far as I can see.  There is more plastic than I care to reconcile.  But many of the eggs are the real deal, their “cascaras” (shells) filled with confetti of colored paper.  There appears to be some tradition of smashing these eggs over another’s head, the confetti raining down over their shoulders an onto the streets.  Eggs on the end of a wooden stick are decorated in every imaginable cartoon character.

More confetti-filled eggs.

More confetti-filled eggs.

Most of these cartoon characters' heads are real eggshells.

Most of these cartoon characters’ heads are real eggshells.

I particularly love this one, because he reminds me of Bernie Sanders. ;-)

I particularly love this one, because he reminds me of Bernie Sanders. ;-)

By nightfall, the sidewalks are strewn with confetti from the eggs.

By nightfall, the sidewalks are strewn with confetti from the eggs.

Not sure about this one...

Not sure about this one…

Further on down Benito Juarez is the “food court.”  Here, vendors have set up to serve everything from arracherro (grilled steak) to menudo (my personal “red line,” stew made from cow intestine.)   There are giant tables with divided sections filled with assorted candies.  Fried churros (think donut) dipped in colored sugars.  The aroma of the flowers at the opposite end of the street is only eclipsed by the smell of sizzling meat as the charcoal fire fuels the “comals” (flat grills) and deep fat fryers for gorditas, tacos, and even homemade potato chips.

The aromas from this charcoal-grilled arracherra steak vendor are intoxicating.

The aromas from this charcoal-grilled arracherra steak vendor are intoxicating.

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People dip everything from fried noodles to hard candies into these four trays of colored sugar.

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Giant sticks of fried potatoes. (Does it count as “Vegan” if it’s fried in lard?) ;-)

This party goes on all night.  The music echoing up the hills from the Jardin never stops.  I don’t think the vendors or the party-goers go to bed all night.   I learn new words like “borracho” (drunk) and “crudo” (hangover.)  This is the “happier” side of the festival.

Night falls and the lights come up on Teatro Juarez, and the flower vendors don't sleep.

Night falls and the lights come up on Teatro Juarez, and the flower vendors don’t sleep.

Looking over the crowds along Benito Juarez from the steps of the Basilica.

Looking over the crowds along Benito Juarez from the steps of the Basilica.

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Music and singing continue on all night.

Music and singing continue on all night.

Next up, “Nuestra Señora de los Dolores,” Our Lady of the Sorrows, the more sorrowful side….

10 thoughts on “Dia de los Flores, Day of the Flowers

  1. Love all the colorful flores, but the crowds look a bit much.
    That egghead sure does look like Bernice Sanders!
    And, yes, as long as I didn’t know they were cooked in lard, the fries would still be vegan 😉

  2. Bernie Sanders and Aunt Jemima….I love it! And somewhere there were some busy chickens. Thanks for this colorful post!

  3. Well, I’ve never known about this and I’m only an hour away in San Miguel! We do have the confetti eggs, but they are for sale the day before Lent starts as part of Carnaval. Strange that they would have them the day before Our Lady of Sorrows.

    The flowers come from the State of Puebla, mostly. Puebla looks like the Netherlands with every flower being grown for as far as the eye can see. None grown in this area, but the bus service brings them in very, very fresh.

    I think I need to catch a bus to Guanajuato next year to see this event! Thanks for sharing……..

  4. The “Aunt Jemima” character is Eufrosina, the “hot-tempered but charming” mother of the Mexican cartoon character, Memín Pinguín. There is a lengthy (but disputed) article about Memín on Wikipedia and a Google search will turn up more about Eufrosina

  5. Isn’t Mexico absolutely glorious? The color, the smell, the tastes, how it touches all your emotions. For a country that is so fascinated and at peace with with dealt it is so full of life.

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