In Mexican culture, Christmas is celebrated with a timeless tradition know as Las Posadas. This delightful holiday ritual takes place each evening for 9 days in December and concludes with jubilant festivities on December 24; known as “Holy Night” or Noche Buena. Las Posadas commemorates the famous journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem on their quest to find shelter for the birth of the baby Jesus.
It was in December several years ago when I was introduced this Mexican holiday tradition during a trip to Huajuapan, Mexico with my family. We had traveled there with our close family friend and caregiver, Cruz, to meet her family. Although we were not accustomed to the language or the culture, we were immediately embraced by Cruz’s family who invited us join them in a neighborhood Posada.
We naturally accepted and candles were lit, thrust into our hands and we were led outside into the darkness. We followed a procession led by 2 children who were carrying a small platform bearing figures that represent Joseph and Mary riding a burro. As december global holidays we moved along a dirt road neighbors and more relatives trooped out to join us. We moved together in a happy procession calling out to each other while children were running along with laughter. We sang a simple chant requesting lodging as we marched along. Our candles flickered and the noise seemed to recede as we became a part of this life that is Mexico.
Certain families in the neighborhood scheduled a night for the Posada to be held at their home. Each home has a Nativity scene and the hosts played the role of the innkeepers while the children and adults requested lodging through song and prayer. After several Ave Marias, we were welcomed and the children participated in a nativity scene, Nacimiento, while praying traditional Catholic prayers. The ceremony was followed by a vibrant celebration with a Piñata filled with peanuts, oranges, tangerines and other sweet treats. We relished in the merriment as we sipped our bowls of Pasole, traditional Mexican soup.
On Noche Buena, fireworks take place at midnight to announce the birth of Christ. Most people attend the Misa de Noche Buena at midnight and churchgoers return home for an elaborate traditional Mexican feast of tamales, rice, rellenos, and menudo (similar to strong coffee).
Las Posadas captured the true spirit of Christmas for us, and I will never forget that magical evening and the contagious excitement among the residents of Huajuapan. We are forever grateful to Cruz and her family for sharing this experience with us