Hot punch and star-shaped piñatas are only part of the festive Las Posadas tradition. This religious custom is most often celebrated in Mexico and some parts of the United States and Latin America. The symbolic journey powerfully illuminates the path Mary and Joseph followed while seeking lodging for Mary to give birth to Jesus.
The ritual typically takes place between Dec. 16 and Dec. 24. It includes a procession in which participants carry with them lit candles and images of Mary and Joseph. Sometimes people don costumes to portray the Holy Family and children often dress like angels.
“Las Posadas is a joyful and wonderful celebration of the mysteries of our faith,” said Benedictine Father Efrain Rosado. “We remember and commemorate how the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph were asking for shelter at Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, and how we must be hospitable and generous to those who are in need in our communities and towns. These festivities are in fact a novena, which is prayed and celebrated during the nine nights that are before Dec. 25.”
Over the years, the tradition has been adapted into various forms: Sometimes it takes place over days and sometimes at just one location. In any case, people move from door to door, asking for refuge. They are then refused, and the door is closed.
At each stop, Scripture and songs are read or sung. At the final destination, they are let into the home and a celebration occurs. The host provides snacks or a meal and often a hot drink or punch. Children are invited to break open a star-shaped piñata representing the star that guides the Three Wise Men to Christ.
Brenda Torres, who attends Spanish Masses at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville and Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Rockville, has fond memories of celebrating Las Posadas.
“My favorite thing is spending time with friends and family on an important historical event that represents the true meaning of Christmas,” Brenda said. “People celebrating the posada can reinforce their faith, and for the ones that don’t know anything [about the tradition], it can be a way to learn and experience the event that happened right before Jesus was born.”
LEARN MORE: The Knights of Columbus has created a guide, “Journey to the Inn: An Advent Celebration,” to host your own posada that is adaptable for many audiences. Find it here: https://bit.ly/3wH0dNA.