The "Day of the Cross" is a popular part of religious and cultural identity in many Latin American countries. "Holy Cross Day" is based on an old liturgical feast celebrating the discovery of the true cross of Christ by St. Helen on May 3rd, 326 A.D. *
On this day the Cross of Jesus Christ is honored with processions, singing, and hundreds—even thousands—of decorated crosses along roadsides, hillsides, parks, cemeteries, and other public places.
It is a holiday especially for construction workers, who in honor of the celebration erect a cross onto the tops of buildings, decorated with paper flowers and streamers, continuing a tradition that began with the building of churches in the 16th century.
One particular tradition on the Day of the Cross incorporates an ancient custom from the ancestral villages (such as the Mayas and Aztecs) of thanksgiving for the harvest of spring fruits, which was kept alive after Christianity was established by the Spanish missionaries over 500 years ago.
The faithful make a wooden cross, decorate it with flowers and streamers, and surround it with an abundance of fruit in thanksgiving to God for his blessing and bounty. It's traditional to make a simple prayer of thanks in front of the cross before daring to grab a fruit to eat; and if you don't place a cross at home, the devil comes to dance around!
If you are of Latin American heritage, do you have any photos or stories to share about this beautiful tradition? Please share in the comments below.
*The duplicate May 3rd feast day was removed from the universal liturgical calendar in 1960 in favor of the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14th, but kept by special permission for some Latin countries due to its popularity.
This article has been updated and was originally published in May 2015. © The Catholic Company. All rights reserved.