Santacruzan Commemorating Saint Helena’s Finding of the Cross

Santacruzan is the queen of Maytime festivals. It is a novena procession, in commemoration of Saint Helena’s finding of the cross. Saint Helena was the mother of Constantine the Great. The procession, however, differs from other religious processions in that it does not parade the usual images of patron saints. Instead, biblical and historical characters are represented by the local people dressed in appropriate costumes.

Santacruzan is a religious-historical beauty pageant held in many cities, towns and even small villages throughout the Philippines during the month of May. This custom and celebration started after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and after the publication circa 1867 of Mariano Sevilla’s translation of the devotional Flores de Maria or Flowers of Mary. Since May is also the month dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the celebration is also known as Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May). The festivity commemorates the search of the Holy Cross by Queen Helena and her son, the newly converted emperor Constantine the Great. After the Holy Cross was found in Jerusalem and brought back to Rome, there was joyful celebration for thanksgiving.

Nine days of prayer (a novena) in honor of the Holy Cross precedes the Santacruzan or Flores de Mayo. Introduced by the Spaniards, this festival has since become part of Filipino traditions identified with youth, love and romance. Beautiful town belles are selected to participate in this colorful pageant parade representing various historical-religious figures. The stars are selected not for their looks alone, but for their embodiment of traditional feminine qualities. It honors beautiful Philippine maidens and their handsome escorts under the hand-carried bamboo arches adorned by fragrant native flowers.

Santacruzan, PhilCulture, #ophirph

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