Preparing for La Navidad
What is Las Posadas?
As with every other country and region, celebration of Christmas in Mexico has its own cultural customs and traditions. The Las Posadas celebration is one of these unique and historic Mexican Christmas traditions. Though originating in what is modern-day Mexico, it is also celebrated in other Latin American countries and people of Latin American heritage in the United States.
“Las Posadas” means “The Inns” or “The Shelters” in Spanish. Las Posadas is a tradition based on preparing for Christ’s birth that involves the re-enactment of Mary and Joseph searching for lodgings in Bethlehem. It lasts for nine days, from December 16 through 24, Christmas Eve. Groups of children and adults each night proceed from house to house singing a request for lodging. At each stop they are denied, until they reach a designated home which allows the group in for a session of prayer and a party.
The Procedure of the Las Posadas Celebrations
A group of people, including children and adults, gather to form the procession. A leader of the procession will carry a paper lantern and a few others in the procession will carry small statues of Mary and Joseph, and perhaps a donkey, or a statue of Mary on a donkey. The group will proceed from house to house (traditionally three different homes) and symbolically request lodging in song.
The homeowners act as the innkeepers and refuse the group lodging, once again, by answering in song. When the group arrives at the designated house of the posada party (typically the third home), the “innkeepers” let the group in.
The people then all gather to pray in front of the Nativity scene; traditionally, they will pray the Rosary. After praying, the group celebrates. There are usually special foods, singing of Christmas songs, and a piñata for the children.
This process occurs very night for nine days. Traditionally, the posada party on December 24th has been the grandest and most festive, and is then followed by going to midnight Mass.
A Brief History of Las Posadas
Las Posadas has been one of the many Christmas traditions in Mexico for a long time. The tradition goes back to the 16th century, when Jesuit priests came to Mexico to preach and convert the natives to Christianity. At the time, the natives had celebrated a nine day feast based on the coming of an Aztec sun god. The missionaries used the nine-day celebration and adapted it as a method to help teach the newly converted about preparation for the coming of the True God, Jesus Christ. The tradition took hold and still exists in Mexico and other Latin American countries today.