Good food, music, prayers and a focus on the Christmas story were all experienced in the days leading up to Christmas through Las Posadas. A tradition in Mexico and several other central and south American countries, this event commemorates the journey of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph in searching for a place to stay in Bethlehem.
“It is a tradition that comes from Mexico and starts on the 16th of December. There are nine Posadas that end on the night before the baby Jesus was born (Christmas Eve). Every one represents the nine months that Mary was pregnant,” said Angie Casanova, one of the Posada travelers who participated in the tradition in Harrisburg.
During the nine nights of the event, travelers visit a different homes or parish each night. St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Harrisburg was one of the stops during the Posada.
At the beginning of the evening, the travelers are divided into two groups, with one inside and the other outside. The group outside represents Mary and Joseph, while those inside represent the innkeepers. After reciting the Posada litany, various call-and-response type songs of Joseph asking for a place to stay, those outside are admitted to the “inn.”
“It’s a joy and a tradition of the culture. The families like to keep this culture alive. In this society, sometimes we don’t think about Christ and what the meaning (of His birth) is. It is also teaching the children about Mary and Joseph and how baby Jesus was born. He was born in a stable in a very humble place. It’s very beautiful for the kids to learn that,” said Casanova.
Each night also focuses on a different element or piece of the Nativity. Casanova explained that this focus is yet another way the Posada serves to prepare hearts to receive Jesus on Christmas.
Ramona Morales, a native of Puerto Rico, said she has celebrated something similar and thinks this event is good for families.
“We are meeting together to pray, to sing. We sing and we share food. I think this is a great thing to bring to the Church. As a family, we need to teach our traditions and our customs,” Morales said.
“There are prayers and scriptures that go with every Posada, every single day is a different one. It’s a beautiful event. It’s community and it also brings a lot of joy,” added Casanova.
By Rachel Bryson, M.S., The Catholic Witness