Las Posadas is a novenario (nine days of religious observance)
celebrated chiefly in Latin America, Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, and by
Hispanics in the United States, beginning 16 December and ending
Las Posadas is celebrated by Latinos and Spaniards and
people who appreciate the culture and holiday of the Mexican and
4 Regional variations
5 Similar celebrations
6 See also
Las Posadas is Spanish for lodging, or accommodation, which in this
case refers to the inn in the story of the nativity of Jesus. It uses
the plural form as the celebration lasts for a nine-day interval
(called the novena) during the
Christmas season. The novena represents
the nine-month pregnancy of Mary, the mother of
The celebration has been a tradition in
Mexico for 400 years. Many
Mexican holidays include dramatizations of original events, a
tradition which has its roots in the ritual of Bible plays used to
teach religious doctrine to a largely illiterate population in Europe
as early as the 10th and 11th centuries. These plays lost favor with
the Church as they became popularized with the addition of folk music
and other non-religious elements, and were eventually banned; only to
be re-introduced in the sixteenth century by two Spanish saints as the
Christmas Pageant, a new kind of religious ceremony to accompany the
In Mexico, the winter solstice festival was one of the most important
celebrations of the year and it was on December 12 according to the
Julian calendar used by the Spaniards until 1582. According
Aztec calendar, Tonantzin Guadalupe (the beloved mother of the
gods) was celebrated on the winter solstice, and she is still
celebrated today on December 12; while their most important
deity, the sun god Huitzilopochtli, was born during the month of
December (panquetzaliztli). The parallel in time between this native
celebration and the birth of the Christ lent itself to an almost
seamless merging of the two holidays. Seeing the opportunity to
proselytize, Spanish missionaries brought the custom of the
re-invented religious pageant to Mexico, where they used it to teach
the story of Jesus' birth to Mexico's people. In 1586, Friar Diego de
Soria obtained a papal bull from Pope Sixtus V, stating that a
Christmas Mass (misa de Aguinaldo), be observed as novenas on the nine
Christmas Day throughout Mexico.
While its roots are in Catholicism, even
Protestant Latinos follow the
tradition. It may have been started in the 15th century by Friar
Pedro de Gante. It may have been started by early friars who
Catholicism with the December
Aztec celebration of
the birth of Huitzilopochtli. The
Las Posadas text and ritual are
also strongly identified throughout the Rio Grande with converso
settlers. For more information see Song From a Withered Limb in the
journal HaLapid, Autumn/Winter 2015. also found here:
Two people dress up as Mary and Joseph. Certain houses are designated
to be an "inn" (thus the name "Posada"). The head of the procession
will have a candle inside a paper lampshade. At each house, the
resident responds by singing a song and Mary and Joseph are finally
recognized and allowed to enter. Once the "innkeepers" let them in,
the group of guests come into the home and kneel around the Nativity
scene to pray (typically, the Rosary). Latin American countries have
continued to celebrate this holiday to this day, with very few changes
to the tradition. In some places, the final location may be a church
instead of a home. The people asking for posada travel to 1 house each
night for 8 nights.
Individuals may actually play the various parts of Mary (María) and
Joseph with the expectant mother riding a real donkey (burro), with
attendants such as angels and shepherds acquired along the way, or the
pilgrims may carry images of the holy personages instead. Children may
carry poinsettias. The procession will be followed by musicians,
with the entire procession singing posadas such as pedir posada. At
the end of each night's journey, there will be
(villancicos), children will break open star-shaped piñatas to obtain
candy and fruit hidden inside, and there will be a feast.
Piñatas are traditionally made out of clay. It is expected to meet
all the invitees in a previous procession.
In Wisconsin, the procession may occur within a home, rather than
outside, because of the weather.
One event in
Portland, Oregon finishes with
Santa Claus and Christmas
gifts donated for needy children.
In New York, worshippers may drink Atole, a corn-sugar drink
traditional during Christmas.
A large procession occurs along the
San Antonio River Walk
San Antonio River Walk and has
been held since 1966. It is held across large landmarks in San
Antonio, Texas, including the Arneson River Theater, Museo Alameda,
and the Spanish Governor's Palace, ending at the Cathedral of San
In the Philippines, where strong cultural influences persist from
Spanish colonial times, the Posadas tradition is illustrated by the
Panunulúyan pageant. Sometimes it is performed immediately before the
Misa de Gallo (Midnight Mass), sometimes on each of the nine nights.
The main difference from
Mexico is that actors are used for Mary and
Joseph instead of statues, and sing the requests for accommodation.
The lines of the "innkeepers" are also often sung, but sometimes these
respond without singing. Another difference is that the lyrics are not
in Spanish but in a local language, such as Tagalog.
Nicaragua the older generations grew up celebrating posadas but
somehow they became extinct in big cities by the 60's. However, there
is a major holiday in
Nicaragua called La Gritería (The Shoutings),
on 7 December in honor of La Purísima Virgen (The Purest Virgin). The
Purisima originated in Leon in the 1600s with Franciscan monks but the
celebration spread quickly throughout the country. By the 1800s it
became a national holiday and today it has become a tradition wherever
Nicaraguans have emigrated to such places such as Costa Rica,
Honduras, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Purisima
starts at noon on December 7 with major fireworks throughout the
country. Then at about 6:00pm more fireworks announce the time when
adults and children go out around their neighborhoods or towns with
burlap sacks in hand visiting different, beautifully crafted altars
while caroling the Virgin Mary. In exchange for singing people receive
sweets, refreshments, fruit and toys. The celebration goes on well
into the night. Finally at midnight the most outstanding fireworks in
the shape of Mary, stars and angels begin, lasting for half an hour.
Cuba also has something similar, called
Parrandas (though Parrandas
has more of a Carnaval in atmosphere). The tradition began in the 19th
century when Father Francisco Vigil de Quiñones, the priest of the
Grand Cathedral of Remedios, in order to get the people to come to
midnight masses the week before
Christmas had the idea to put together
groups of children and provide them with jars, plates and spoons so
they could run around the village making noise and singing verses. The
idea persisted over the years and with time it gained complexity
ending in the street party that has remained till these days.
Venezuela and Ecuador, families and friends get together
from 16 to 24 December to pray the novena of aguinaldos.
List of festivals in Mexico
Christmas in Mexico
Christmas - Luminarias and Farolitos".
Santafedecor.com. Archived from the original on April 26, 2012.
^ "No Room in the Inn: Remembering Migrants on the U.S. Border".
Peace.mennolink.org. 2010-07-04. Archived from the original on
2012-07-06. Retrieved 2012-11-03.
^ a b c Erickson, Doug (2010-12-23). "Latinos here celebrate Christmas
tradition Las Posadas, 'festival of acceptance'".
Journal. Retrieved 24 December 2010.
^ a b c d e Aldama, Arturo J.; Candelaria, Cordelia; García, Peter
(2004). Encyclopedia of Latino popular culture. Westport, Conn:
Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-33211-8.
^ Mansueto, Anthony E., Religion and Dialectics, p. 110, University
Press of America, 2002
^ a b Flores Segura, Joaquín, Tonantzin, Guadalupe, p. 74, Editorial
^ a b Campos, Jorge. Guadalupe: Symbol of Evangelization, Ibukku, 2017
^ Fee, Christopher R. and Webb, Jeffrey B., American Myths, Legends,
and Tall Tales: An Encyclopedia of American Folklore, p. 747,
^ Guerrero-Huston, Thelma (2010-12-22). "'Las Posadas' event
Christmas story". Statesman Journal. Retrieved 24
^ Heller, Reid (Autumn–Winter 2015). "Song From a Withered Limb".
^ Pemberton, Tricia (2010-12-15). "St. Mary's students observe Las
Posadas tradition". The Oklahoman. Retrieved 24 December 2010.
^ Candia, Pablo (2010-12-20). "Las Posadas: Passing on a Hispanic
tradition in Dodge City". Dodge City Daily Globe. Archived from the
original on 10 July 2011. Retrieved 24 December 2010.
^ Langlois, Ed (2010-12-23). "Event mixes
Christmas tradition and
charity". Catholic Sentinel. Portland, Oregon.
^ McCaughan, Pat (2010-12-17). "
Las Posadas observances adapt, recall
Latin American celebration of the nativity". Episcopal News Service.
Retrieved 24 December 2010.
^ Fisher, Lewis F. (1996). Saving San Antonio: the precarious
preservation of a heritage. Lubbock, Tex: Texas Tech University Press.
^ Hoyt, Catherine A.; Simons, Helen (1996). A guide to hispanic Texas.
Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-77709-4.
^ Eakin, Tyra (2010-12-20). "San Antonio's River Walk offers winter
wonderland". Victoria Advocate. Retrieved 24 December 2010.
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