Hundreds of thousands expected to gather for Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations in Des Plaines

DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) -- Fireworks lit the sky above the Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines Sunday night, the eve of her feast day.

The celebration traditionally attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, the vast majority of Mexican origin, not just from around the Chicago area but from around the country.

"It's very exciting to be here again and see all the traditions come back after all that year that we had," said Alma Zendejas.

Last year's events were scaled back because of the pandemic.

"We're just honoring because we're still alive and it was a hard year but we came through it, so we're just being thankful right now," said paola Almendarez.

"Virgencita gracias por otra oportunidad," thank you for giving me a second chance, reads a hand made over dress. The bearer and his family making the pilgrimage all the way from Los Angeles.

"She's my second mother because when we came from Mexico to here, I had problems in high school. I got in gangs," said Fernando Garcia. "So I start praying and praying, and I see the changes. So she helped me a lot."

The Virgin of Guadalupe, is the Virgin Mary by another name. The brown-skinned Madonna who according to Catholic tradition appeared to a young peasant boy named Juan Diego on a hill outside Mexico City in 1531.

At the time, according to the story, Juan Diego's uncle was very sick and close to death. The virgin it is said, cured him. Today, Mexican Catholics venerate her. The shrine in Des Plaines, is the largest in the United States where hundreds of thousands of faithful from all over the country come to give thanks.

"Juan Diego learned through trust in God, but also, that to begin to have a more positive outlook for the future, instead of the dark one, is part of the answer as well as seeking out remedies for our illnesses.," said Father Esequiel Sanchez, Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Because December 12th is the official celebration of the Virgin de Guadalupe, a midnight mass will kick that off, with many spending the entire night at the shrine.
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