What are Las Posadas?
Photographs by Jennifer Carrillo, Bella Rosa Photography
I love celebrating Las Posadas! They mark the beginning of Christmas festivities across México, in some parts of Latin America, and even many communities in the United States. They are a beautiful celebration of processions and parties starting December 16th and lasting for 9 consecutive days in anticipation of Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve. Posada literally means “lodging” in Spanish and they commemorate the journey that Mary and Joseph took from Nazareth to Bethlehem before Jesus’ birth on Christmas. Celebrating Las Posadas is one of the most unique Mexican traditions.
Each night between December 16th and December 24th a Posada is celebrated. A procession is formed by participants called los peregrinos or “pilgrims” and they are led by two children carrying a platform with Mary and Joseph statues. Sometimes two older children or teenagers are dressed as Mary and Joseph. In some larger scale processions, a real donkey may be used with Mary riding the donkey with Joseph by her side. Los peregrinos keep Mary and Joseph company by carrying candles (called farolitos, Spanish for “little lanterns”) and singing songs along the procession route. It’s common for young children to wear homemade costumes to represent shepherds and angels in the procession. Sometimes a child leads the entire procession while holding either a large star or a farolito. The peregrinos ask for posada or lodging at three different homes on their procession route, but only the 3rd home will allow them in. After songs and prayers around the nativity scene are complete, a party follows, of course!
As a child, my parents would often taken us to México to be with our family during the Christmas season and celebrating Las Posadas was a central part of our trips. The singing, the food, and the piñatas – I remember them fondly. When we did not make it to México for Christmas, we celebrated Las Posadas with our church community– it was just like being back in México, except that I grew up in Chicago and it was much colder during the outside procession!
As part of an ongoing effort to teach my children about their Mexican culture, my husband suggested that we celebrate Las Posadas with our friends and family. The celebration brought back many great memories for me. I hope you enjoy looking at the pictures and let us know what you think!