Across Mexico, Guatemala, and in many parts of the U.S., the Christmas season begins with the celebration of Las Posadas. These festivities are community based and hold tightly to their religious roots by highlighting the journey of Mary and Joseph before the birth of Jesus. Here are some interesting facts to help you learn more about this notable tradition:
- The practice of Las Posadas was begun by Augustinian friars near Mexico City around the year 1586. They used the celebration to teach the indigenous Aztec population about the birth of Jesus by having daily Christmas masses for nine days. This also coincided with the winter solstice ceremonies of the Aztecs.
- The holiday as it’s celebrated now, with neighborhood groups going from house to house, didn’t take shape until the nineteenth century. Today, the celebration is usually organized by neighborhood committees or associations.
- The word posadas means “inns” and the tradition of Las Posadas comes from the story of Mary and Joseph searching for a place to stay on their way to Bethlehem. They were turned away by everyone until finally, an innkeeper allowed them to stay in the stable where Jesus was born.
- Among the people in the procession, you will see some dressed up as shepherds, others as angels, and a lucky two will get to be the stars of the show by donning costumes of Mary and Joseph. In some neighborhoods, the procession is led by children who dress up as angels and carry images of Mary and Joseph.
- Traditionally, the holiday begins on December 16 and lasts until December 24, for a total of nine days, which some experts say symbolize the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy.
- Members of the procession are offered refreshments at each house while they sing traditional Christmas songs, but they aren’t invited inside until they reach the last house of the night, where the party continues. the house that is the designated “posada” changes each night.
- Children enjoy breaking open a five-star piñata that’s filled with candy and goodies once they reach their final destination. The piñata’s shape represents the star of Bethlehem.
- On the last night of Las Posadas, the revelers typically attend midnight mass after the celebration and then continue the Christmas celebration the next day.
By Kelli Drummer-Avendano
Also read: Descubriendo culturas y celebraciones: Posadas, Hanukkah y Kwanzaa