A wonderful Mexican Christmas tradition, las posadas literally translates in English as “the inns” or “the lodgings” and symbolizes the Biblical journey of Mary and Joseph as they searched for shelter in Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus.
The nine-day celebration lasts from December 16 to Christmas Eve (Noche Buena or “Holy Night”) and includes a candle-lit procession of children and parents reenacting Mary and Joseph’s journey through Bethlehem.
The holiday ritual includes a lively and colorful pageant of kids (the “pilgrims” or peregrinos) – costumed as Joseph, Mary, angels, shepherds and the Three Wise Men – who travel from house to house until they reach a designated home where Las Posadas will be celebrated that year.
Upon arrival, the hosts or “innkeepers” meet the procession at the door to begin the holiday fiesta with an exchange of lyrics from the traditional Pidiendo Posada:
In the name of heaven,
This is no inn,
The song goes on for several stanzas until Joseph and Mary are
finally recognized and allowed inside with everyone singing in unison:
Let us sing with joy,
Soon, everyone begins celebrating with traditional songs & prayers – just before an explosion of merrymaking that includes Christmas party music, piñata bashing, sweet treats and fireworks!
On Christmas eve, Las Posados culminates in all-out feasting at the Cena de Noche Buena when families gather for a traditional meal of romeritos (baked shrimp), bacalao (dried cod fish), roast turkey, Christmas salad, and mounds of sweet and sugary buñuelos.
Especially in northern Mexico – and in Mexican communities in Texas, New Mexico, California and Arizona – the festivities may include a Christmas tree, lots of presents, or even a visit by Santa. However, Three Kings Day or Epiphany on January 6 remains a traditional day for gift exchanges in Central and Southern Mexico and throughout Latin America.
Las Posadas Around the World
In the Philippines, the posadas tradition begins on December 15 with a Misa de Gallo (midnight mass) every night for nine consecutive nights prior to Christmas eve.
Similarly, Puerto Rican Christmas celebrations usually begin December 10 – and last until the Epiphany (Día de los Reyes Magos) on January 6 – with impromptu Parranda (parties) hosted at different locations each night for generous helpings of Christmas coquito (a delicious variation of egg nog) and festive platters of pasteles (savory meat pastries).
In Nicaragua, La Gritería (The Shoutings), occurs on December 7 when friends and family parade in the streets to sing in praise of the Virgin Mary before visiting neighbors to share festive food, drink and gift exchanges.
Las Posadas on the Web
Around the Web, find out more about celebrating Las Posadas with lively descriptions of annual family customs complete with recipes & instructions for homemade holiday feasting …
Christmas in Mexico – One-stop browsing for Las Posadas history, fun facts, photos, recipes, printable sheet music and song lyrics, from Mexico Connect.com.
Celebrate La Posada in Mexico! – Kid-friendly teaching resources and lesson plans including suggested activities and instructions for making a piñata, from Scholastic.com
Las Posadas – Preparing for La Navidad – Lovely overview of traditional celebrations with historical footnotes and featuring selected diabetic-friendly recipes for Sopa de Albóndigas, Festival Salad, Vegetable Tamale Pie, Tijuana Chicken, Baked Mexican Lasagna, Warm Apple Empanadas, Fresh Fruit Quesadillas and Tapioca & Strawberry Parfait