Celebrating a colorful Sto. Niño Festival

CLAD in colorful costumes, the street dancers fell in line at the beating of the drums on a bright Sunday afternoon on Tinian and got ready to celebrate another tradition that has continued to attract locals and tourists each year—the Sto. Niño Festival, or festival of the Child Jesus.

As the men who volunteered to carry the Sto. Niño statue for the procession fell into place, the street dancers—composed of kids and adults started their dancing and chanting in front of the San Jose Church on Tinian.

Soon the procession started with the street dancers leading the way, drawing the attention of spectators along the road. Four stations were set along the streets—usually in front of the house of devotees where the street dancers stopped to dance for a few minutes before continuing.

By nightfall, the procession returned to where it originated—in front of the San Jose Church. Huge tents were erected at the back of the church where a lavish feast was laid out on long tables.

Guests and locals fell in line to partake of the mouthwatering dishes prepared by the community members hours before—some even as early as the day before.

It was a time when cultural barriers were crossed and guests from various ethnicities sat side by side eating the same food and sharing experiences with one another.

Some of the street revelers joined the dancing with fervent hopes to make their wishes come true. The Sto. Niño Festival is a time when residents take out the Sto. Niño statues they have at home to have it blessed at the church and join the procession.

The dancing did not end at the streets. It continued on through the potluck and even after the dinner plates were cleared away.

The Filipino community on Tinian initiated the celebration of the Santo Niño Festival, a celebrated Roman Catholic statue of the Child Jesus years every third or last Sunday of January, but during the past years, the Filipino community have successfully drawn the interest and participation of other ethnicities.

From the local Filipino favorites, the potluck dishes expanded to include Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Chamorro and Western favorites.

Next year, the residents of Tinian can expect another lavish Sto. Niño Festival. Mark your calendars a year ahead to make it there.

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