Two events this week commemorate a watershed moment for the Mexican people

The Dance of the Elders is colorful and at times humorous. The event kicks off two days of celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. You can read about it

The Dance of the Elders is colorful and at times humorous. The event kicks off two days of celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. You can read about it

Friday Harbor will be alive with the bright, bold colors of Mexico during back-to-back celebrations this week.

On Thursday, the streets of Friday Harbor will be the setting for the Dance of the Elders. Now in its fourth year, the procession will feature folk dancers from the local Mexican-American community, adorned in traditional Mexican dress, leading a procession through town.

Tentatively scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., the procession will start in the parking lot of the Port of Friday Harbor and weave its way through downtown on its way to St. Francis Church on Price Street. Every block or two, the procession will come to a halt so that the dancers can perform an assortment of traditional and time-honored Mexican folk dances.

Friday, St. Francis Church will celebrate one of Mexico’s most cherished cultural and religious icons, Our Lady of Guadalupe, beginning with Mass at 5:30 p.m. The ceremony commemorates a manifestation of the Virgin Mary in the “New World” more than 400 years ago.

According to Catholic tradition, a vision of the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin on three successive days on a hill outside Mexico City in 1531, the final one occurring on Dec. 12. The apparition, speaking in Aztec, told the monk that an abbey should be built on that hill. Juan Diego’s superior, a Spanish bishop, was skeptical, however, and instructed the monk to produce a miracle as proof of his vision.

As the story goes, the monk went back to the hill the following day and was told by the vision to gather flowers even though flowers normally were not in bloom at that location in mid-winter. But to his surprise, Juan Diego discovered a patch of Spanish roses in full bloom, which he gathered up in his cloak and brought back to the bishop.

Back at the abbey, when the roses fell out of of Juan Diego’s cloak, an image which has since been known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, or Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, as she’s known in Spanish, was imprinted on the cloth of the monk’s cloak.

Over the years, that image became cherished not only as a religious symbol, but as a cultural icon of the Mexican people and an emblem of the struggle for independence from colonial rule. The armies of Miguel Hidalgo and Emiliano Zapata carried the Guadalupan flag into battle in their respective wars of independence.

St. Francis Church will also observe traditional holiday Mass on Christmas Eve, beginning at 5:30 p.m., and on Christmas Day, beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Information: Call St. Francis Church, 378-2910.

Other upcoming holiday events:

Thursday
— “Magical Strings,” 7:30 p.m., San Juan Community Theatre. A Celtic yuletide concert by the Northwest’s Boulding family. Tickets: $22 for adults, $11 for student reserved, with $5 student RUSH at the door. Call 378-3210. Visit www.sjctheatre.org.

Saturday
— Roche Harbor’s annual Christmas Block Party, 4 p.m., Roche Harbor Village. Featured activities include a lighted boat parade, Santa’s workshop in the Roche Harbor Pavilion, a wandering group of carolers, a sing-along of holiday favorites, complimentary seasonal hors d’oeuvres, a bonfire (or two), and the ever-popular holiday sweater contest.

Dec. 19
— Santa Storytime, 10:30 a.m., San Juan Island Library. Free. Children and parents will enjoy stories on the theme of Santa followed by a paper craft. A personal visit will follow by the man in red himself, Santa Claus.

Dec. 20
— Santa’s Christmas Island, 4-7 p.m., San Juan Island Grange Hall, Friday Harbor. Santa will have beautiful teddy bears for every boy and girl, young and old. Join Santa around a crackling fire and listen to traditional Christmas stories. Join the elves in Christmas caroling and nibble on homemade cookies. There will be decorations to make and Christmas trees to decorate.

— San Juan Singers, 7:30 p.m., San Juan Community Theatre. Sound the trumpets: San Juan Singers brings songs of the solstice, winter, and holiday favorites, including Daniel Pinkham’s Christmas Cantata. Tickets: $17 for adults, $9 student reserved, with $5 student RUSH at the door. Call 378-3210, visit www.sjctheatre.org

Dec. 21
— San Juan Singers, 2 p.m., San Juan Community Theatre. Tickets: $17 for adults, $9 student reserved, with $5 student RUSH at the door. Call 378-3210, visit www.sjctheatre.org