Understanding the Catholic Background of Your Latino Love

Now that you’re dating a Latina woman she’s asked you to go to church with her. What do you do? If your fear is that the minute you step in church you’re forehead will burn a sign of the cross on itself as punishment for all your sins, then you’re being a bit over-dramatic. It’s probably not going to be as bad as you think. It’s not like the movies where heads spin out of control. Well, at least we hope not. So here’s a brief overview of some highlights you need to know about Catholicism.

The Catholic faith makes up the majority religion throughout Latin America and is also the major religion among Latinos living in the U.S. Sure, like many religions the Catholic dogma has its rituals, beliefs and holidays. The faith is based on the teachings and life of Jesus and incorporates the Trinity, or the Father (God), the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit as its spiritual base. Catholicism also has many Saints and the Pope is assigned as the supreme leader of the faith on Earth. The most important holidays, of course, are Christmas, Easter and Ash Wednesday. Aside from those there are other Holidays that are celebrated depending on the customs of your loved one’s family and country of origin. A Saint in one country, for example, may be more revered than another Saint in another country. This leads to a variety of sub-holidays for the faithful belonging to different countries. An example would be celebration of the miraculous appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe which Mexicans celebrate on the anniversary of the sighting each December 12th.

Christmas of course is each December 25. This is the day Catholics celebrate the birth of Jesus. But an important thing to remember is that most Latino families celebrate Christmas Eve. During this Holiday time the family gathers well into the night having dinner and eventually opening presents at midnight. More traditional families attend Christmas Eve mass. Throughout this Holiday period and right after New Year’s Day, another Holiday is celebrated by Latin Americans. On January 6 “El Dia de los Magos” (“Day of The Three Wise Men”) is celebrated and some traditional families exchange gifts on this day as well. This day honors the magi visit to Jesus after he was born.

“Ash Wednesday” occurs approximately forty to forty-six days before Easter and is considered the first day of lent. Since “Ash Wednesday” is contingent on Easter, the date varies but it is always on a Wednesday. On this day Catholics go to church to repent for sins committed and ashes are used by priests to make the sign of the cross on the foreheads of the faithful.

“Easter” occurs yearly at different dates as well but it is always on a Sunday. “Easter” is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and occurs the weekend after “Good Friday” which commemorates the day Jesus was crucified.

So there’s no need for you to take a philosophy class on the Catholic religion unless you really want to impress your girl. Just accept the fact that if your loved one’s family is devout they’ll be at church on Sundays. And definitely expect a push for a Catholic wedding.  But if you’re not thinking that far in advance, just the fact that you have a basic understanding of Catholicism should make your loved one happy. 

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