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!

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