“Las Posadas” are finally here!
Now widely-celebrated tradition throughout Latin America, “Las Posadas” originated in colonial Mexico. The Augustinian friars of San Agustin de Acolman, near Mexico City are believed to have celebrated the first posadas. In 1586, Friar Diego de Soria, the Augustinian prior, obtained a papal bull from Pope Sixtus V to celebrate what were called misas de aguinaldo “Christmas gift masses” between December 16 and 24.
The Aztecs had a tradition of honoring their god Huitzilopochtli at the same time of year (coinciding with the winter solstice), and they would have special meals in which the guests were given small figures of idols made from a paste that consisted of ground toasted corn and agave syrup. The friars took advantage of the coincidence and the two celebrations were combined.
The celebrations were originally held in the church, but the custom spread and later was celebrated in haciendas, and then in family homes, gradually taking the form of the celebration as it is now practiced by the 19th century.
Today, “Las Posadas” is not one single isolated event, but a string of December events in San Miguel de Allende, the nine nights of the posadas—which means “inn”—represent the nine-day journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.
In a different colonia each night, a boy dressed as Joseph and a young girl dressed as Mary (usually riding donkey) parade through the streets knocking on doors only to be turned away because there is “no room at the inn.” After all, sings the household, “you might be a rogue.”
At each door, they sing the traditional Posada Song, “Pidiendo Posada,”(Begging for Shelter). Learn all the lyrics to the Posada Song here. There’s even a sound link to listen to the tune itself if you don’t know it.
Finally, when the Holy Couple finds an open door and a welcome, everyone is offered food and hot fruit ponche to drink. Piñatas get broken and candy gobbled. Try this ponche recipe yourself. It’s a true Mexican taste of Christmas.
“Posada” celebration 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, as we already mentioned, to represent nine days journey to Bethlehem.
So, basically the Christmas season in Mexico runs from December 9 to January 6, with one last related celebration on February 2.