Las Posadas

This is from my Zermeño Crossculturing Column, every Wednesday, in our local newspaper, the Hayward Daily Review, of December 15, 2004.

Las Posadas

As with any group of people, religion plays an important role in the Latino household. This being the Christmas season, and tomorrow being the 16th of December, I thought it would be the best time for me to tell you about a wonderful tradition called Las Posadas (The Inns), piñatas, food, drink, religion, and community.

If you went to the Ballet Folclórico performance last week, you were given a glimpse of las posadas. Now I am going to tell you a bit more about them.

Las posadas begin tomorrow in México, and run for nine days, ending on the 24th. Essentially, it recreates the journey of Joseph and Mary, as they look for shelter, before the birth of Jesus. It is somber and joyous, religious, and very family oriented.

This recreation was brought over from Southern Spain, where they celebrated it in homes and convents. When the tradition reached México, it coincided, as most European celebrations did, with an already very old native American tradition. This was the birth of Huitzilopochtli, Aztec god of war, where one night and the following day, around the Christmas season, he was celebrated with parties at various homes. The hosts rewarded the guests with food, drink, small idols, and gifts. This is the main reason why las posadas really took root in México, as opposed to the other countries influenced by Spain.

Anyway, in the evening, Mexican children are either dressed as Joseph and Mary, or they carry their statues. Mary may be on a donkey as they lead a long procession of children dressed as angels, followed by other children, parents, and members of the community, all with lighted candles...a very beautiful sight.

They go to a house, knock on the door, ask for shelter for the night and are refused. Then they go to another house, and another, until a predetermined homeowner finally agrees to let them in. What is special is that all this is sung, and is accompanied by musicians. I actually know the words, and I loved all those piñatas.

Anyway, once they are let in, the festivities commence. There is food, drink, talk and piñatas for the kids. It used to be nine houses, representing the nine day journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and, some say, the nine months of Mary's pregnancy.

In the Philippines, which shares Latino culture due to the Spanish presence, the posadas tradition is illustrated by Misa de Gallo (midnight mass), every night for nine consecutive nights prior to Christmas eve.

Nicaragua has an event, called La Gritería (The Shoutings), which happens only one day, on December 7, in honor of La Purísima Virgen (The Purest Virgen). The people go out on the street, sing to the Virgin and then visit their neighbors for food, drink and gifts.

Puerto Rico also has something similar, called 'Parrandas' (parties). They begin on the 10th of December and go all the way to the January 6, which, incidentally, is the Epiphany (Día de los Reyes Magos). The celebrants gather at different houses every night, drinking coquito and eating pasteles (Puerto Rican tamales). That reminds me that I will have to do a column on tamales...there are so many varieties and so little time to eat them all.

This weekend, go over to Chabot College to watch 'La Posada', a play, written by an ex Chabot student. It is at the Little Theater at 7:30, with a fantastic price of $15 per family. There are some elements of the traditional posadas in this play, besides it being a culturally clashing humorous piece. Hayward on! Gracias mil.

Francisco Zermeño is a Hayward educator and businessman. He can be reached at , 510.732.2746 or at

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