December 16th marks the beginning of the annual Posadas Navideñas in Mexico. Posada is a Spanish word for “inn,” and the Posadas Navideñas, which recall events leading up to the nativity of Jesus, are a focal point of Christmas traditions in Mexico.
Reenacting the search for an inn
A local Posada begins with a ritual that reenacts Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn on their way to Bethlehem.
Traditionally, this manifests as a local street procession, and other times the ritual will take place outside of the house (or event center) where the party is to be held; with some guests waiting outside playing the role of the pilgrims asking for accommodation, and other guests inside, playing the role of the hosts.
On street processions, participants carry lighted candles along a prescribed route around a local neighborhood asking, through means of a special posada song, for ‘room at the inn’—knocking on doors along the way, or knocking on the door where the party is arranged. The protagonists of the nativity story are most often portrayed in costume by local children.
Neighbors along the route may open their doors and purposefully refuse Mary and Joseph (in song) until, at the end of the route, a designated house (or sometimes a local church or village hall) allows Mary and Joseph to pass, and a Christmas posada party ensues there.
The posada song
The posada song is organized into two groups of singers: the pilgrims (asking for room at the inn) and the hosts. You can read the lyrics in order here. The lyrics are sung in turn, with the pilgrims making pleas for accommodation, and the hosts rejecting those pleas—until the end, when the hosts accept to accommodate Mary and Joseph.
If a street procession doesn’t precede a party, the song will most likely be sung at some point during the party itself, with all the guests assigned a ‘role’ as either the pilgrims (asking for room at the inn), or the hosts, and they sing accordingly. Song sheets and candles are handed out to aid the participants’ reenactment.
The posada party
The party, or posada as it’s referred to, often features villancicos (Christmas carols) and a piñata—a colorful papier-mâché figurine which is strung up on a rope and, when broken-open by party goers hitting at it blindfolded with a stick until it eventually pours out with fruit and confections which the children scurry to collect.
There is usually at least one street posada taking place in a neighborhood of every town on every night between the 16th and 24th of December, and some people also host private posadas for friends and family to attend.
Some host posadas every year as part of their annual Christmas festivities, and if you’re living in Mexico, there might be more than one to attend if you’re invited; and one for you to host if you choose to open your home and invite others to a posada.
Learn more about Christmas traditions in Mexico
Mexperience helps you to discover Christmas traditions in Mexico and enjoy all the country offers during this important festive period:
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