Posadas Navidenas: Christians revel in Spanish tradition of nine nights

Breaking a pinata, crowd in back

A pinata is broken during Las Posadas. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, DECEMBER 16: The elaborate Hispanic countdown to Christmas officially begins in tonight, with Las Posadas—or Posadas Navidenas—across Mexico, in Guatemala and in regions of the United States. For nine nights, until Christmas Eve, entire neighborhoods will march through the streets in costumed processions that reenact the journey of Mary and Joseph to the manger. Spanish for “lodging” or “accommodation,” Posada recalls the difficulty Mary and Joseph encountered on their journey. Each evening, children lead processions that lead to a “host” home, where the “innkeepers” welcome procession participants and everyone prays. Following prayer, guests feast on traditional tamales and sip ponche navideno. Children often break a star-shaped piñata, and Christmas carols are sung by all. (Learn traditional carols and more at The Other Side of the Tortilla.)

POSADAS NAVIDENAS:
FROM AZTEC WINTER TO A NEIGHBORHOOD GATHERING

Roots of the nine-day Las Posadas likely lie in the Aztec winter celebration of the sun god, which took place over nine nights; when the native peoples of Mexico were converting to Catholicism, church leaders encouraged nine nights of devotion to the parents of Jesus—focusing each evening on a month of Mary’s pregnancy. (Wikipedia has details.)

To this day, children follow tradition in dressing the parts of Mary, Joseph, angels and shepherds, and some carry poinsettias while others sing along, often accompanied by musicians. Finally, a designated home welcomes the guests, and merrymaking ensues.

Bowl with ladel of fruit punch, ponche

Ponche is a traditional drink made for Las Posadas, though recipes vary slightly. Photo by Raluy Schneider, courtesy of Flickr

Revelries outside of Mexico vary: in the Philippines, Posadas highlights a Panunuluyan pageant, a type of play portraying the story of Mary and Joseph and recited in a local language. In Nicaragua, the event lasts only one day. In the United States, several regions hold some type of Las Posadas celebration, most often with carols, reenactments and plenty of Mexican food. The Salt Lake Tabernacle will once again be hosting its three-day Posadas program, with nearly 1,000 singers, dancers, musicians, actors and stagehands.

RECIPES, MAKING A PINATA

Shake off the winter chill by adopting a Las Posadas tradition in your neighborhood, and invite friends over for a traditional meal of vegetable tamale pie, Tijuana chicken and warm apple empanadas. (Recipes can be found at Cinnamon Hearts.) Craft a simple piñata with help from OneCharmingParty.

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