Las Posadas – Dec. 16th through Dec 24th
Las Posadas is the name for the popular celebrations in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, the United States and Panama during the nine days before Christmas (December 16-24). Las Posadas (which is Spanish for the “inns” or “lodging”) relates to the search by Joseph and Mary for a place to stay in Bethlehem.
This tradition began in Mexico in 1586 when Catholic missionaries received permission from the Pope to celebrate nine “Christmas Gift Masses” between December 16 and 24. This coincided with the dates of an Aztec festival celebrating the virgin birth of Huitzilopchtli, the Aztec Sun God. (Some people have claimed the tradition originated in Spain but there is no documentation.)
These celebrations recall the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph from their departure from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where they look for a place to stay and await the birth of the baby Jesus.
The nine Christmas Masses represent either the nine-day journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem or the nine months of Marys pregnancy.
Originally the celebrations were held in the churches but now it is more common in homes. Typically, some participants will go to homes and knock on the doors only to be turned away. They sing a song, “Pidiendo Posada” (Asking for Lodging). They finally find a welcoming home and everyone is offered food and hot fruit ponche (a Christmas punch). They say prayers, sing songs and break piñatas with lots of candy for the children.
Celebrations can be simple with just a few friends or family or they can be huge celebrations which are very fancy.