Posadas Navidenas: Celebrate nine nights of faith, food & community

Las Posadas procession photo via Wikiimedia Commons

Las Posadas procession in the American Southwest in a particularly picturesque setting. (Photo via Wikimedia)

Glasses of white creamy drink sprinkled with cinnamon and spices

Rompope, a traditional Mexican drink similar to eggnog, is served at many Las Posadas celebrations. Photo by David Armano, courtesy of Flickr

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16: The lively, colorful and sparkling nights of Las Posadas begin the countdown to Christmas in Mexico, Guatemala and parts of the United States tonight, as an ancient tradition is reenacted.

Tantalizing dishes, merry carols and the story of the nativity has been bringing together communities in Mexico for more than 400 years in a beloved tradition that lasts nine nights and ends on Dec. 24. Each night of Las Posadas, a small, candlelit procession travels through a neighborhood, its participants dressed like Mary, Joseph, angels and shepherds, reenacting the search for a safe place to welcome the infant Jesus. Often, musicians follow the group, as do accompanying members of the community.

Posada, Spanish for “lodging,” or “accommodation,” describes the events of Las Posadas: as the procession stops at designated houses and asks permission to stay, it is prearranged that all homeowners turn away the visitors until the host family is reached. At the home of the host family (or, in some regions, a church), the visitors are welcomed inside, and all present kneel before a nativity. Following prayers, tamales and ponche navideno are served, washed down with rompope, a Mexican drink with a taste similar to eggnog. Children may hit a five- or seven-pointed piñata, often filled with dried fruits, sugar sticks, candies and nuts.


For recipes for tamales, rompope and more, check out an article from the Washington Postthis Pinterest page and Lowes.com.

As a learning resource, NBC News suggests Posadas Navidenas as one of five Latino holiday traditions to share with children.


The sights and sounds of Las Posadas can be heard beyond Mexico, and as this writer describes, Hispanic communities of the United States—and, in particular, in New Mexico—the nine nights before Christmas are a sprinkling of Mexican culture.

In the diverse state of New Mexico, Christmas trees and menorahs accompany multiple La Posada reenactments, some of which even include live animals. This year, the recently-formed nonprofit organization Bellas Artes Sin Fronteras presented “Feliz Navidad: Christmas in Song and Dance” Dec. 12-13, complete with mariachis, folklorico dance, pinatas and La Posada.


Nativity of Christ: Orthodox Christians on Julian calendar observe Christmas

Nighttime with lit old architecture in background crowd of people clapping hands and singing

Coptic Christians from Eritrea and Ethiopia at an Orthodox Christmas celebration at the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, January 2012. Photo by Ridvan Yumlu, courtesy of Flickr

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7: Cathedral bells ring in Christmas Day across Russia and in several Orthodox Christian communities worldwide, as those who follow the Julian calendar observe the Nativity of Christ. For the Orthodox churches that follow the Julian calendar, the calendar created under the reign of Julius Caesar in 45 BCE ushers in Christmas on what most of the world views as January 7. From the Patriarch of Russia (who sent greetings to non-Orthodox churches on December 25) to Orthodox communities in Jerusalem, Serbia and Poland, elaborate services will usher in Christmas Day.

Having fasted in preparation for 40 days, it is with overwhelming joy that these Orthodox Christians approach the Nativity of Christ.

For Orthodox Christians, the feast of Christmas is officially called the Nativity in the Flesh of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Services begin on the morning of Christmas Eve with readings of prophesies in the Bible; a fast is kept until sunset, and when the first star appears in the evening, a distinctive meal is consumed. The Christmas Eve evening meal, sometimes referred to as the Holy Night Supper, may consist of 12 vegan dishes—one for each Apostle. After the food has been partaken in, carols are sung and blessings are recited. (Learn more from the Orthodox Church in America.)

Additional services continue on Christmas Eve and throughout Christmas Day. The following day, Dec. 26, is occasion for honoring the Virgin Mary as the mother of God. Church services on this day are devoted to Mary, as part of the Nativity.

Recent studies in Russia have shown that only 6 percent of Russians had planned to celebrate Christmas on December 25, and that approximately 87 percent of Orthodox believers—72 percent of the general population—will mark Christmas on January 7. According to polls, most celebrants will observe Christmas with their families, at home. (Tass Russian News Agency has the story.) This year, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin banned government officials from taking a lengthy holiday for Christmas, stating that the paid time for employees cannot be afforded. (Read more from Yahoo! Finance.) While Russian companies and government officials are typically permitted time off between January 1 and 12, many will be limited to keeping Christmas celebrations within a couple of days.

Advent Sunday: Candles, pudding, Christmas joy on ‘Stir-Up Sunday’

Purple candle lit on Advent Wreath with Christmas tree in background

A first candle is lit on the Advent Wreath today. Photo courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1: Western Christians enter the season of Advent today, waiting in joyful anticipation for the coming of Jesus: today is Advent Sunday. Churches and families across America typically will light a first candle today in the Advent wreath, marking the weeks until Christmas. Some churches also are adding special St. Nicholas Day programs this week, to remind children that the roots of the Santa Claus legends spring from an actual Christian saint.

Christmas pudding from a boxSTIR-UP SUNDAY: Did you know that some churches also use the informal phrase Stir-Up Sunday? The phrase refers to the inspiration of the Advent season and comes from a 16th-Century Book of Common Prayer reading for the day: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people.” But in the Victorian era, this was the day when British families gathered in the kitchen to stir up the Christmas pudding. Sometimes families would pop a coin into the mix as well—so that whoever happened to get that coin in a scoop of the finished pudding would have good luck. Unfortunately, with the … ahem, the advent of ready-made Christmas puddings, a national survey in the UK revealed that most children these days have never gathered with their parents to stir up a from-scratch pudding. (Read much more about The Flavors of Faith in Lynne Meredith Golodner’s book.)

Remember that Eastern Christians began their annual Nativity Fast in prayerful preparation for Christmas back on November 15!

For Western Christianity, the Advent season consists of four Sundays, all of which are marked with a candle on the traditional Advent Wreath. Many church groups offer inspirational resources:

CATHOLIC: Catholic Culture offers a prayer for the blessing of the Advent Wreath, recipes for plum pudding and fruit cake, and instructions for a Jesse Tree. Also, the readings for today are at the website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

UNITED METHODIST: This year, the United Methodist Church has posted six sets of meditations for the weeks of Advent.

EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH in AMERICA: The ELCA has an easy-to-download-and-print set of readings and reflections for lighting the Advent candles.

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (USA): The Presbyterian Church has a colorful PDF with Advent readings.

ANGLICANS ONLINE: This isn’t a denominational website, but Anglicans Online has a very extensive Advent resources list of links.

Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and Methodist churches use violet-colored vestments and décor during Advent; the color is changed to rose on the third Sunday of Advent, or Guadete Sunday. The Advent season officially ends on the evening of December 24.