Saint Nicholas is most frequently known as San Nicolás de Bari in Mexico. Showing his influence, one hundred eighty-three cities, towns and villages bear the name San Nicolás.
Mexico’s strong ex-voto tradition was brought by the Spanish. Small paintings on tin are placed in churches and chapels in gratitude for answered prayer or blessing, especially for healing and other relief. At one time each village had an ex-voto painter who would paint a narrative picture showing the story of the blessing. The petitioner, the saint, and an image of the problem are shown, with words of explanation beneath. The pictures are painted on metal plates known as lamina. These votive paintings are public and very personal expressions of faith. The petitioner is identified and may sign and even paint the plate itself. The ex-voto would be put on the wall by the statue of the saint who had interceded on behalf of the petitioner.
The ex-voto on the left tells the story of “Mrs. Juanita Tiomitzi who gives infinite thanksgiving to San Nicolás for the miraculous cure of her son’s leg which was injured when a [chiquihuite] full of tortillas fell damaging his leg and causing much pain. Tlaxcala, 1904”.
The one on the right: “San Nicolas de Bari, in this time of the Holy Kings, I had not been able to sell any of my toys throughout all of the year, then I have sold everything in a single night, what a miracle this is! Casimiro Martinez Ortega, Puebla 1940.”
Los Tres Lunes de San Nicolás de Bari (The Three Mondays of St. Nicholas of Bari) is very popular in Mexico, especially in Guadalajara. The Sanctuary Church of St. Nicholas hosts eight Masses on Mondays, with up to 700 at the most popular ones. The former Cardinal even officiates at some of the masses. The faithful believe that whoever trusts in St. Nicholas will have their petition fulfilled. People ask most often for good jobs and money; some also ask for health and to keep their Christian faith. Some also come to thank Saint Nicholas for the blessings they’ve received. As one woman said, “Fortunately I have more things to thank for, than things to request. What I really needed was to be closer to God spiritually and that is how San Nicholás de Bari helped me. I found a novena for San Nicolás de Bari after my mother died. I liked it and that’s why I started to come.” Others testify to the saint’s help, saying they’ve had a lot more work since visiting the saint on Mondays.
The Patronal Fiesta in San Nicolás de Ibarra takes place from November 28th through December 6th. The statue of San Nicolás is carried in procession throughout the whole town. Fireworks and live music follow the procession. The last day features a special Mass and the fiesta continues through the night.
Video from San Nicolás de Ibarra: