Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Las Posadas, December 16 - 24

This wonderful Mexican tradition originally occurred over nine evenings. The word posadas means inns or lodgings. The tradition of Posadas developed during the sixteenth century, the Colonial period in Mexico's history. The Spanish missionaries brought customs from Spain and adapted customs of the Indians to Christmas celebrations.

The Aztecs celebrated the arrival of their god Huitzilopochtli between December 7th and 26th. In 1528 Brother Pedro de Gante wrote down a description of Aztecs' celebrations. Some characteristics of the celebrations were songs, poetry, a battle of warriors, huge feasts, and torch lit processions. Under Spanish rule Catholic priests transferred some days of the ancient Aztec tradition to a new set of Catholic celebrations.

The Nahuatl Indians acted out important historical events and real life stories through plays. Missionaries incorporated this method to present the events from the life of Jesus. These plays or pastorelas occurred at the end of special Masses known as Aguinaldo, Christmas present Masses. These nine Masses or Novena were begun December 16 and ended on December 24. At the end of Mass pinatas were broken, people sang songs, villancios, and they watched the pastorelas. Las Posadas is a pastorela. It is a reenactment of Joseph's search for lodging for Mary and himself during their trip to Bethlehem as Mary awaits the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:4-7).

Over the years the Las Posadas has been adapted in various ways. More often than not it now takes place on one evening; however, in the past it took place over nine evenings. It begins with family and friends or a classroom of students gathered together. Adults carry candles (may be battery operated) and all recite the Litany of the Virgin Mary. Two children are dressed as Mary and Joseph. A few persons remain inside the final destination. The remainder of the group processes from home to home or classroom to classroom singing the song requesting lodging or simply knocking on a door and asking for lodging. At eight homes or classrooms they request lodging for Mary and Joseph. At eight doors they are refused. At the ninth home or classroom the host recognizes Mary and Joseph and invites them in to stay. All come in and the
baby Jesus is place in a nativity set. Traditionally a novena is recited, but you may say a prayer of your choice. Here is a traditional Christmas prayer that could be said before the celebrations:

Hail and blesssed be the hour and the moment when the Son of God was born of
the Most Pure Virgin Mary at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that
hour, vouchsafe Oh My God to hear my prayer and grant my desire through the
merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Most Precious Mother. Amen

After the novena a pinata is broken and dinner may be served. Small baskets called colacion
are given out with treats in them. An air of festivity ensues. I am going to have a birthday cake to Baby Jesus in my class. Any type of celebratory food whether homemade or store bought can be offered as a treat to conclude the posadas custom! You may wish to choose a food from Mexican cuisine such as Mexican hot chocolate with bunuelos, churros, sopaipillas or bizcochitos. Many of which can be found in our supermarkets.
Las Posadas: A Bilingual Celebration for Christmas by the Daughters of St. Paul is a resource you may wish to purchase.

Here is an easy recipe:




4 cups of milk/ small saucepan

1 Abuelita Tablet/ measuring cups

sugar to taste/ spoon for stirring



1. Heat milk in saucepan. S tir until hot but not boiling.

2. Place one Abuelita tablet (or other Mexican brand hot chocolate tablet found in Mexican aisle of grocery store or Mexican supermarket) in blender. Add hot milk and sugar to taste.

3. Blend until well-mixed. Serve hot or suitable temperature for children!

Friday, December 3, 2010

St. Lucy, December 13

St. Lucy is loved by the people of Sweden, but she was born in Sicily during the persecution of Diocletian at the end of the third century. Her parents were wealthy Christians. Her father died early leaving Lucy and her mother alone. Lucy wanted to remain a virgin serving Christ in the poor, but her mother had other ideas. She arranged a marriage for Lucy to a wealthy pagan. Shortly after this her mother became ill. When she did not get better, Lucy suggested that they go to St. Agatha's tomb and pray for her recovery. It was after this visit that her mother was miraculously restored to health. It was then that Lucy told her of her desire to remain a virgin and serve the poor. Her mother grateful for her healing agreed.
Lucy's suitor however was furious at the loss of the marriage, particularly the dowry that she would have brought with her had they married. In a rage he accused her of being a Christian and informed the authorities. Lucy was asked to honor the Roman gods and renounce her love of Jesus. She refused and as a result was stabbed to death; some say her eyes were gouged out beforehand. News spread of her heroic deed and many miracles were received through her intercession. Missionaries told stories of her, and the people of Scandinavia loved her. They have many traditions associated with St. Lucy that incorporate candles and lights. To this day the feast of St. Lucy is celebrated in Sweden. St. Lucy is the patron saint of all those who suffer from eye troubles. Remember to ask her intercession when you or someone you know has a problem associated with the eyes.
On a lighter note we have a recipe which is sure to engage young students and imprint on their memories the story of St. Lucy! This recipe is very easy to do in a classroom if you have a microwave. It takes only a few minutes at the most for 20 children or more to have a few of these treats.
St. Lucy Eyeballs
Prep: 5 minutes /Yield: many eyeballs!
Ingredients /Equipment
Wagon wheel pretzels (Utz brand) /dessert size paper plates
Candy striped Hershey Kisses /microwave
M & M Candies
Place a number of wagon wheel pretzels on a dessert size paper plate.
On top of each pretzel place one Candy stripped Hershey Kiss with
foil removed. Microwave for 15 seconds or until Kiss is soft but not
runny. Remove from microwave and place a blue, brown or green
M & M on top of soft kiss. Let cool and harden for a couple of minutes.
If you are looking for a book on St. Lucy, the following contains a good
account in pages 3 - 10 of the revised edition: Lucia Child of Light:The History
and Tradition of Sweden's Lucia Celebration by Florence Ekstrand
Skandisk. It is available at http://www.swedishshop.com/ for $8.95 pb. The remainder
of the book tells of the traditions that have grown up in Sweden around the
feast of St. Lucy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Legend of the Poinsettia

Advent is a wonderful time to pull out a favorite story from your stash of books. The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola is a favorite of mine. After reading the story, making poinsettia lollipops is a simple activity that can be done at home or in the classroom. As you may know, the story draws the reader into the true meaning of the Christmas season - giving oneself to Jesus.

The main character, Lucida, with her mother hopes to make a beautiful blanket for the annual parish nativity procession in the mountains of Mexico. Lucida's mother becomes ill and can not complete the blanket. Lucida tries to finish the blanket on her own but tangles the yarn thoroughly. No one is able to undue the tangles and finish the blanket in time for the procession.
Poor Lucida now she has nothing to give the Christ Child as a gift. A kindly woman encourages her to come to the church anyway. She reminds Lucida "...any gift is beautiful because it is given ...Whatever you give, the Baby Jesus will love, because it comes from you." Near the church she sees some tall weeds growing and picks them. She turns to the kindly woman to ask if these would be alright to give the Holy Child, but the woman has disappeared.
Going into the church some women murmur that Lucida is bringing weeds to the Christ Child. As she stops to pray before the Holy Infant, she bows her head. Suddenly the church is filled with a hushed silence. Beautiful red flowers are springing forth from the weeds. Lucida's gift had become beautiful. Outside of the church all the tall weeds now have flaming red flowers like stars on green poles. The towns people called the flowers la Flor de Nochebuena - the Flower of the Holy Night.
After finishing this story, it is fun to make Poinsettia lollipops to remind us of the legend of the poinsettia and the meaning contained in the legend. Advent is full of many stories - think of the legends of St. Nicholas or the Juggler for Christ- that point us to deeper spiritual realities. Reading the stories, making some of the symbols are enjoyable ways to spend time with our children and teach them perennial truths of the Advent and Christmas seasons.


 Poinsettia Lollipops

1 Pkg. Red Candy Melts plastic poinsettia lollipop molds*
1/4 cup Green Candy Melts lollipop sticks to fit mold
Directions: Melt 1 cup of red candy melts in microwavable dish for 45 seconds.
Stir candy. If not melted, heat in microwave for 30 seconds more. Continue to heat
for short periods of time and stir until candy is melted. Do not overheat. Insert sticks
into lollipop mold(s). Pour melted candy into each mold. Gently tap to get rid of air
bubbles. Place in freezer for 5 minutes. Check candy is firm. Remove candy from
freezer and gently unmold. Melt green candy melts. When melted, take the
end of a lollipop stick or some pointed utensil and dip in melted green candy. Dot
the center of the poinsettia lollipop with green chocolate. Repeat for all lollipops.

* Molds may be purchased at Fran's Cake and Candy in Fairfax City or ordered online.
Here are two online sites: www.amazon.com - search for Christmas poinsettia chocolate molds
or www.candy.com - search for poinsettia chocolate molds
Melts and sticks for lollipops (suckers) are available at Michael's, WalMart and many party stores. Check for color availability.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Advent/Christmas 2010

Greetings! Advent for 2010 begins with the vigil Mass on Saturday, November 27. It is the First Sunday of Advent. Now is the time to get out the Advent wreath at home or for the classroom. The custom is to light one candle for the First Sunday of Advent and add an additional candle for each successive Sunday. There are prayers to accompany the lighting of the candle(s). Prayers for the Advent Wreath ceremony may be found in local Catholic shops, on-line or here in this blog under the post for Nov. 21, 2009.
There are four Sundays in Advent, and this year we have four full weeks of Advent to prepare for Christmas. The readings for the Liturgical Year are taken from year A in the three year cycle. It is through the daily readings of Scripture that the Church assists us in entering more fully into the Spirit of Advent.
If you are interested in making and baking an Advent wreath with your children/students, you will find a recipe with instructions on my Nov. 20, 2009 post from last year. Please check this blog regularly as I will be updating it throughout Advent with new recipes and activities for the home and classroom.