Flores de Mayo: Mary, Flowers and Filipino Camaraderie

Fr Leonard E Dollentas

Not being able to go home for the past few years because of the pandemic, Filipinos in Macao have missed their customs and traditional practices in May. Of the numerous religious festivals celebrated in the Philippines, one is thought to be above them all – Flores de Mayo. It is perhaps the most colorful, the most widely celebrated, the most anticipated of all festivals and the most extravagant when it culminates with the lavish Santacruzan (a colorful pageant parade or procession held on the last day of Flores de Mayo).

As the name suggests, Flores de Mayo is a Filipino religious tradition, a month-long Marian rite, celebrated from the 1st to the 31st of May. It is, among the countless Marian special events, a series of devotional acts and sacrifices offered to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“Flores” is the Spanish term for flowers and “Mayo” is the local term for the month of May. Thus, Flores de Mayo literally means “Flowers of May.” May after all is the month when most flowers are in full bloom, making it the perfect time to hold such an event. However, more than just a mere festival of flowers, Flores de Mayo has a more important spiritual meaning. The flowers offered to Mary symbolize her virtues that the devotees would commit themselves to pursue, accompanied by the prayer that, through her intercession, God may bless the children and their families as well as their community. Flores de Mayo is also an occasion when children are instructed on the basic truths of the Catholic faith. Part of the practice is the praying of a novena to Mary and the offering of flowers before an image of Our Lady, accompanied by singing. Hence, the true meaning of the offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary is a sign of love for the Mother of God as she gathers her children to listen to the teachings about Jesus and his sacraments.

THE FLOWERS OF MAY: The English-speaking parishioners of the Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady celebrate the Flores de Mayo festival with a procession in the church. The flowers offered to Mary symbolize her virtues. The festival is regarded as the Queen of Filipino Festivities in the Philippines and among its diaspora.

To bring the memory of the celebration alive and make it more consoling, the English-speaking community of the Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady celebrated Flores de Mayo last Sunday. The community prayed the Rosary and ended it with a simple offering of flowers to Our Lady of Fatima. The community shared the flowers they had brought with others who forgot to bring their own. A Filipina devotee said: “Flores de Mayo is regarded as the Queen of Filipino Festivities because no other festival lasts as long, is as glamorous, as grandiose, as widespread and as opulent. But today we see the simplicity of the celebration and the sharing of flowers is touching. It shows that during this pandemic time we really have to share with others what we have.”

For the Filipinos, Flores de Mayo is a wonderful way to connect with other Filipinos throughout the world, honoring Mary in this month dedicated to her.