Posadas are an important part of Mexican Christmas celebrations.
They’re held in neighborhoods for 9 nights across Mexico, and also becoming popular in the United States.
The word posada means “inn” or “shelter” in Spanish. This tradition re-enacts Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, to be counted in the Census just prior to the birth of Jesus. (Los Peregrinos, San José y la Virgen María are also known as Las Posadas).
These celebrations are a “Novena” or nine days of prayer, starting on the 16th of December, and finishing on the 24th which is the Noche Buena (Holy Night).
The celebration begins with a procession in which the participants hold candles and sing Christmas carols. Sometimes there will be individuals who play the parts of Mary and Joseph who lead the way, or occasionally images representing them are carried. The procession will make its way to a particular home (a different one each night), where a special song (La Cancion Para Pedir Posada) is sung.
Asking For Shelter
There are two parts to the traditional posada song.
Those outside the house sing the part of Joseph asking for shelter and the family inside responds singing the part of the innkeeper saying that there is no room. The song switches back and forth a few times until finally the innkeeper decides to let them in. The hosts open the door and everyone goes inside.
Once inside the house there is a celebration which can vary from a very big fancy party to a small get-together among friends. Often the festivities begin with a short Bible reading and prayer. Then the hosts give the guests food, usually tamales and a hot drink such as ponche or atole.
Then the guests break piñatas and the children are given candy.
The nine nights of posadas leading up to Christmas are said to represent the nine months that Jesus spent in Mary’s womb, or alternatively, to represent nine days journey to Bethlehem.
Guests feast on Tamales, Pan Dulce, Buñuelos, Mexican Chocolate, Champurrado and Ponche with a little rum added for the adults. It’s a great family tradition that has carried on through the years.