Las Posadas is a religious festival and an extended devotional prayer that’s observed between December 16th and 24th. It’s typically celebrated by Hispanics in some parts of the U.S and in Latin America, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Cuba. It’s particularly important in Latin countries and has managed to be celebrated for hundreds of years with very few changes being made to it.
The name of this nine-day period translates to “The Inns” in Spanish, and commemorates the journey that Joseph and Mary (the mother of Jesus). It’s celebrated over the course of nine days instead of a typical week because that represents the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy.
The History Of Las Posadas
This week has been observed in Mexico since 1586. Although this tradition started out as a Catholic tradition in Latin America, it’s also observed by Protestant Latinos as well. However, this tradition actually has just as many roots in Aztec pagan rituals as it does in Christianity.
Originally, the Aztecs celebrated Tonantzin, or the mother of the gods, during the winter solstice, and their most important deity, the sun god Huitzilopochtli, was born during the month of December.
When the Spanish missionaries arrives they saw the parallels between pagan and Christian traditions, so they invented this religious pageant and used it to teach the story of the birth of Jesus. In 1586, Pope Sixtus V issued a Papal Bull that stated a Christmas mass should be held in Mexico nine days prior to the start of Christmas.
Observing Las Posada
All across Mexico and other Latin countries, Los Posadas is celebrated in villages and towns. During the evening of each day, a small child dressed as an angel will lead a group of people through the streets.
This procession is mostly made of children wearing gold and silver robes and carrying images of Mary and Joseph riding a donkey and carrying candles. Adults follow the procession as the procession asks selected homes for lodging for Mary and Joseph.
A mass is always held after the procession, and when this service has ended, then the children will break open pinatas filled with candy and toys. All of these pinatas are crafted to look like a star, the star that guided the three wise men to newborn Jesus.