Pueblo feast days are sacred festivals that serve as a time for tribal members to come together to share their rich traditions, language and religion. The pueblos are also opened to the public on feast days as an invitation to view and share in their sacred traditions.
San Ildefonso Pueblo begins the New Year with a feast day celebrating their patron saint, San Ildefonso.
What is a Pueblo Feast Day?
Feast days are Western/Catholic occasions brought to the Southwest by the Spanish and Franciscan friars who founded mission churches throughout the newly-settled areas. Patron saints were chosen for each pueblo by the friars during the often-forced conversion of their inhabitants. Traditional pueblo feast days may have later been dedicated to the patron saint, or they may have been combined with the saint’s traditional Catholic feast day to aid in their Christianization of the Pueblo Peoples.
Today, feast days reflect the mix of pueblo and Catholic traditions and beliefs. Most feast days include a Mass, and the effigy of the saint can be moved from the church altar to a covered shrine in the pueblo plaza. Offerings such as harvest goods may be placed on the floor of the shrine. Traditional festivities such as spiritual songs and dances take place as well.
During San Ildefonso’s feast day, they perform the Comanche, Buffalo and Deer dances.
Who Was San Ildefonso?
San Ildefonso, or Saint Ildefonsus (died 667 AD) served as the bishop of Toledo in Spain. His writings were influential along the Iberian Peninsula, and remained so for centuries after this death.
His Catholic feast day is January 23rd.
Feast Day Etiquette
If you decide to attend San Ildefonso’s Feast Day, please remember that you are a guest observing a very sacred time. There are rules of etiquette you are asked to follow, including:
- The prohibition of photography and sketching at all times
- Refraining from asking questions, or pressing for answers if your questions are not answered
- Observing the silence that is mandatory during all dances and pueblo ceremonies
- Staying in designated areas of the Pueblo villages only
- Refraining from bringing a cell phone into the Pueblo
For more information on attending the feast day, you can visit San Ildefonso Pueblo’s page on the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s website.