Dressed in a light-blue mantle after portraying the Blessed Mother in her school’s presentation of Las Posadas, an empathetic look crossed Jaime Wells’ face as she considered what Mary faced when looking for a place to give birth to Jesus in Bethlehem.
Standing next to classmate Joseph Kennedy, who portrayed Joseph, Jaime said she has a better understanding of what the Holy Family faced in being turned away from innkeepers until they were ultimately given the harsh confines of a stable to welcome the infant.
“Playing Mary in the Posadas, I got to understand more how hard it was for them to be rejected three times. Mary was pregnant and no one would accept them. It had to be so hard,” Jaime said.
Jaime and Joseph joined several other classmates in presenting Las Posadas for students at Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Middletown on December 16, the start of the traditional nine-day commemoration of the Holy Family’s search for refuge for the birth of Christ.
Spanish for “The Inns,” Las Posadas is a tradition celebrated in Mexico and Latin America on nine consecutive nights, in which individuals portray Mary and Joseph, while participants walk behind them to selected homes, requesting lodging for the couple until they are welcomed. A Mass and fiesta traditionally follow each evening’s procession.
Seven Sorrows School presented the cultural celebration as part of its Catholic Identity class period held on Friday afternoons aimed at integrating hands-on activities as students learn about the faith.
“This is our second year presenting Las Posadas as part of our Catholic Identity period. We have a growing Hispanic community, and we wanted to do this presentation to help enrich the faith of all our students as they learn about different cultures,” said Shealyn Breen, religion teacher.
The presentation was done in two sessions, with two sets of students portraying Mary and Joseph, and traditional Posadas participants who follow the Holy Family as they seek shelter and are rejected three times before being welcomed. Students sat on the gym floor with flameless candles, extinguishing their lights each time Mary and Joseph were turned away at various doors.
Following the presentation, students were treated to a fiesta which included the breaking of a pinata; its seven stars representing the seven deadly sins, and the stick representing the virtue to overcome them.
“I think it was cool to experience this,” said Joseph Kennedy, one of the students who portrayed Joseph. “It’s crazy to think that people would have said, ‘No, we can’t give a room to a family that’s about to have a baby.’ After learning about the Posadas and being part of this today, I want people to know that they should open their heart to Jesus, and not close the door in His face.”
“I learned that you need to keep your heart open to people in need, and not take things for granted,” Jaime said after the presentation. “We should all try to sacrifice what we can to help others.”
Eighth-grader Valentina Torres, who portrayed Mary in the second presentation, was joined by her mother, Zaida Martinez, who played the guitar for the performances. Martinez sang a traditional song that is sung in Spanish by the pilgrims as they beg the innkeepers for a room for Mary and Joseph.
Translating for Martinez, Valentina said her mother was overjoyed to be part of the celebration at the school.
“It brings me joy to see the Posadas here today, and all the kids so happy and joyful. A lot of schools don’t do things like this,” Martinez said.
A member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Harrisburg, Valentina said her parish annually celebrates Las Posadas, and so she was “happy to see that the school was getting involved in more cultural things too, and not afraid to celebrate it.”
“I want people who see and learn about the Posadas to understand that Mary and Joseph could have easily said no, but they said yes to God’s plan, and that takes a lot of courage,” she said.
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness