Two girls carry images of the child Jesus during a Jan. 27 celebration at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Anchorage. — Photo by Ron Nicholl
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and St. Benedict Church together celebrated Santo Niño Sunday on Jan. 27 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Anchorage. Father Elbert Fadallan, a chaplain at Elmendorf Air Force Base, concelebrated the Mass with Father Vincent Blanco, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The tradition of Santo Niño dates back to the 13th century when Spain was under Muslim rule.
At that time, many Christians were taken prisoners as spoils of war in the small town of Atocha. Some devout Christian prisoners were denied food. According to tradition, only children under age 12 were allowed to bring food to the prisoners. The local women of Atocha knew that many prisoners would not survive. These women prayed before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking for Christ to come and help the prisoners.
Reports soon circulated that a child was bringing food to childless prisoners. The mysterious child was dressed in pilgrim’s clothing yet could not be identified by the locals.
When the women of Atocha heard of the child, they returned to the Marian statue to thank Mary for her intercession. According to tradition, they noticed that the shoes worn by the Infant Jesus statue held by Mary were tattered and dirty. Jesus’ shoes were constantly replaced but were soiled again and again. The people of Atocha interpreted this as a sign that Jesus went out every night to help those in need.
A version of Santo Niño is celebrated among Filipinos. Commonly known as Santo Niño (Holy Child) in the Filipino culture, the child Jesus is portrayed very similarly to the Spanish Atocha.