SANTA CRUZAN is a popular religious festival held in many towns and cities throughout the Philippines as the highlight of the month-long celebration of Flores de Mayo during the month of May. It is usually celebrated with a parade of decorated floats and elaborately dressed characters, representing various aspects of the Virgin Mary and other figures. The festival was introduced to the country during the Spanish period and continues to be celebrated by Filipinos all over the world.
According to popular legend, St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, went to Calvary 300 years after Christ’s death to search for Christ’s cross. At the site of the crucifixion, she unearthed three crosses, and had her sick servant lie down on each one. Upon touching one of the three, the servant was cured; this cross was determined to be Christ’s. The anniversary of this discovery is traditionally celebrated on May 3rd.
The custom of the Santa Cruzan celebration started sometime after the Immaculate Conception of Mary was declared official dogma in 1854, and after the publication circa 1867 of Mariano Sevilla’s translation of the devotional Flores de Maria or Mariquit na Bulaclac na sa Pagninilaynilay sa Buong Buan nang Mayo ay Inihahandog nang manga Devoto cay Maria Santisima (The Flowers of Mary or the Beautiful Flowers that in the Meditations During the Whole Month of May are Offered by Devotees to Mary the Holiest).
During Spanish times, parish priests would choose hermanas or sponsors from the daughters of wealthy families. These women would shoulder the expenses, plan the festival and decorate the church as well as the caroza which would be used in the procession.