Las Posadas, a Spanish celebration of the difficult journey of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph to Bethlehem, begins December 16. First established as a novena four hundred years ago, it grew to a huge nine-day celebration in cities and towns across Mexico.
In anticipation of Las Posadas, each home puts up a nativity scene and the families act as innkeepers.
The procession, walking with lit candles, is normally headed by children with a little girl playing the part of Virgen Maria (Virgin Mary) and a boy as San Jose (St. Joseph). The two are “Los Peregrinos,” or pilgrims, in search of a place to stay. They are followed by other children dressed as angels and shepherds and then the adults. In some areas, statues of Los Peregrinos are carried instead. A small doll, representing the Christ child is also carried.
They walk through a neighborhood, stopping at homes where they knock on doors and ask for lodging by singing a traditional litany. The pilgrims sing, “In the name of heaven, I ask you for shelter because my beloved wife can continue no longer.”
Then the innkeepers sing, “This is no inn, continue on your way. I am not about to open. You may be a scoundrel.”
Normally three houses are chosen and the pilgrims are turned away from the first two.
They finally stop at a home that has been pre-selected for that evening’s celebration, where they are welcomed in as the innkeepers sing, “Let us sing with joy, all bearing in mind that Jesus, Joseph and Mary honor us by having come.’
Upon entering, the celebration begins with the recitation of the Rosary around the home’s nativity scene followed by the singing of Christmas Carols. After that, a huge party is held with music, fireworks, lots of food, and a piñata for the children filled with peanuts in the shell, oranges, tangerines, candy canes, and wrapped hard candy.
The children may be enjoying their piñata, the adults also have a treat in store – "Ponche con Piquete," or party punch, made from seasonal fruits and cinnamon sticks with a shot of alcoholic spririts.
The Christ-child doll is left at the house overnight and then recovered the next day when the pilgrims again take up their procession for the next of eight successive nights, ending on Christmas Eve.
Las Posadas has its roots in a sixteenth century practice by St. Igantius of Loyola who had used an Aztec festival to teach the people about Christ. He replaced a nine-day celebration to an Aztec Sun God with a Novena, which later grew into the Las Posadas celebration, which anticipates La Navidad, the Nativity, on Christmas Day.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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