By M. Yvette Millán Torres L.L.M.
Advent is a season full of reflection and desires to improve our lives. The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus, which means “coming,” and in the Christian language it refers to the coming of our Lord Jesus.
There are several traditions that are celebrated as part of the Advent of our baby Jesus in the Hispanic community and we can all join in if we would like to experience them. Las Posadas (“the inns”) are one of these.
Las Posadas are a beautiful tradition of Mexican origin that are celebrated in Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, other Hispanic countries and, of course, here in the United States. They are celebrated from Dec. 16-24. Las Posadas are held in different houses every day. Each host family provides the food, the Christmas aguinaldos (bonuses), the piñata and the love of receiving friends, neighbors and strangers in its home. The pilgrims, or guests, return to their homes at the end of La Posada late at night or at dawn. On many occasions, parishes also hold a Posada in their building.
Looking for lodging
The dictionary of the Spanish language says that La Posada is the economic lodging establishment that used to serve as a room destined to accommodate travelers sometimes with their carriages, horses, etc. The tradition of Las Posadas represents the pilgrimage of the Virgin Mary (Virgen María) and St. Joseph (San José) of Nazareth to Bethlehem because a census had been ordered by the emperor. When Joseph and the Virgin Mary arrived in Bethlehem, Mary was about to give birth, and they could not find an inn (Posada) to stay for the night.
The traditional Posadas have always been Christian and cheerful, since they are a series of celebrations, even when the reality of Joseph and Mary looking for an inn was one of uncertainty and need. Las Posadas represent this wandering through two groups. The pilgrims represent the Holy Family. They stand outside the house, or place for the event, with a ceramic Nativity scene and/or people — usually children — dressed like María and José, carrying lighted candles. They sing, “I ask you for lodging in the name of heaven …” and after several verses the hosts inside the house let them in singing, “Come holy pilgrims …” Christmas gifts are given; there are piñatas, tamales, champurrado (a traditional warm drink made with cornstarch, chocolate, water and sugar), lots of food and drinks. This celebration is an opportunity to prepare ourselves spiritually for the coming of Jesus.
Breaking with sin
During the Fiesta de Posada, inside the host house, the traditional piñata is broken. The religious orders used the piñata to evangelize in Latin America during the period of Spanish colonization. The piñata is made of a clay pot or a papier mache pot that is decorated with many pieces of colorful paper. It has the shape of a star with seven peaks. Inside the piñata, they put peanuts, tangerines, sugar canes, sweets, etc. The piñata represents the seven deadly sins. “Breaking with sin and accepting the covenant of Jesus that is born for us brings grace” (devotional of the World Apostolate of Fatima), which is symbolized by the sweets or gifts that fall when the piñata is broken.
An open invitation
The tradition of the Posadas take place in our diocese every year. Posadas are held in some parishes, such as Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary and St. Paul, and in the houses of members of the parishes. During the Posadas, the Rosary and Novena to the child Jesus or Novena of Aguinaldo are also prayed to incorporate the various communities from different Latin American countries into our local community. Feel free to participate in this Catholic tradition of las Posadas with our brothers and sisters of Hispanic heritage.