St. Sebastian's Day

St. Sebastian's Day

January 20
St. Sebastian is known as the patron saint of archers for reasons that are all too obvious: legend has it that when his two brothers were imprisoned for being Christians, he went to visit them and to encourage them to stand by their faith, converting many of the other prisoners and their visitors in the process. His actions drew attention to his own beliefs, however, and he was condemned to die by being tied to a stake and shot with arrows until his body resembled a pincushion. When a Christian woman came to claim his body for burial, she discovered that he was still alive and nursed him back to health. Undaunted, he confronted his persecutors again. This time they succeeded in killing him, and his body was thrown into the great sewer of Rome in 288. All that is known with reasonable surety is that Sebastian lived, was an early martyr, and was buried on the Appian Way in Rome.
In Zinacantán, Chiapas State, Mexico, there is a nine-day celebration in honor of St. Sebastian, extending from January 17 to January 25, that marks the transfer of authority from the Big Alcalde (or chief magistrate) to his successor. At the end of the festival, the outgoing Big Alcalde is escorted with his articles of office to the house of the incoming Big Alcalde. There is an elaborate ritual during which he hands over an image of San Sebastian and other symbols of his authority. The festival also features a jousting pantomime, dancing to the rhythm of a special drum, two feasts, and a mock healing ceremony. The connection between the Día de San Sebastián festivities and the martyrdom of St. Sebastian, however, remains obscure.
People in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, also celebrate the feast day of their patron saint with church services, colorful religious processions, and other festivities.
See also El Pochó Dance-Drama
CONTACTS:
Mexico Tourism Board
21 E. 63rd St., Fl. 3
New York, NY 10021
800-446-3942 or 212-821-0314; fax: 212-821-0367
www.visitmexico.com
Rio de Janeiro Tourism Authority
Rua da Assembleia, 10-9 Fl.
Downtown
Rio de Janeiro, 20119-900 Brazil
55-21-2217-7575; fax: 55-21-2531-1272
www.riodejaneiro-turismo.com.br
SOURCES:
AnnivHol-2000, p. 12
DaysCustFaith-1957, p. 27
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 41
OxYear-1999, p. 43
(c)