What are Posadas?
Christ Church Cathedral will celebrate Posadas from the 16th through the 23rd of December. Posadas are gatherings of congregation members and non members who meet to remember the time when Mary and Joseph were looking for room in the inn and were turned away. We walk with the “pilgrims” singing traditional Christmas carols, and knocking on our neighbors doors until, in a cute twist to the story, Joseph and Mary are recognized, and we all join in the celebration with Piñatas, songs and traditional food. All are welcome to attend!
Posadas take place at 6pm every evening.
*On Tuesday, December 17th, Posadas will be hosted at Christ Church Catehdral, by our choirsters!
If you would like to get more information about where they will take place, please email Veronica Godinez.
To learn more about Posadas, please continue reading.
Room in the Inn: Ideas for celebrating Posadas
by Hugo Olaiz & Yuri Rodríguez. Oct 1, 2015
The Posadas (Spanish for “inns” or “lodging”) is an Advent celebration revolving around the concept of hospitality. In Mexico and some parts of Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador, it is traditional to hold Posadas during the nine days before Christmas, beginning December 16 and ending December 24. The Posadas symbolize Mary and Joseph’s long, frustrating search for a place where Jesus could be born. The tradition re-enacts —with a twist, and a happy ending— the story told in Luke 2:1-7. We learn from the Posadas that by welcoming the poor and the needy, we are welcoming Jesus in our midst. (See Matthew 25:40).
In Mexico and other countries, families in the neighborhoods take turns hosting the Posadas. Children, adults, and musicians play the parts of Mary and Joseph. They go house to house as Christian Pilgrims searching for lodging. At one house after the other, they ask for lodging, in song, and are turned away, in song as well. When the weary travelers reach their final stop, an additional verse is sung: Mary and Joseph are then recognized by the Innkeepers and allowed to enter the home.
As it often happens in popular religiosity, the tradition and the song vary from region to region. There is no “wrong way” to celebrate Posadas so long as the experience helps us focus on Jesus.
Adapting the Posadas to a Church Setting
In the U.S., a growing number of congregations, both Latino and Anglo, are adapting the tradition of the Posadas into a one-time event held during the season of Advent. The event often starts in a home, or in the church’s parking lot, and ends in church. The whole congregation, as well as neighbors and friends, are invited to participate. Some congregations with more experience may hold more than one event and visit different homes on different nights. If you’re planning to celebrate Posadas every evening, or most evenings from December 16 to 24, consider using Novena de Navidad: Unos días de reflexión durante el Adviento, which includes simple liturgical meditations around themes such as obedience, faithfulness, humility, etc. (See “Additional Resources” below).
Arriving at a home or church, the group sings, at the doors, the part of the Pilgrims. Another group of people, from the inside, sing the part of the Innkeepers in response to the Pilgrims. Before arriving to the final stop, the Pilgrims are rejected at one or various homes, with the song ending with verse 4. At the final stop, verse 5 and the refrain are also sung, and the Pilgrims enter the “inn” to a joyous welcome.
Walking the Walk
Some churches have simplified the Posadas to the point that there is no real procession: The pilgrims move from the church parking lot directly to the church door, where they sing the Posadas song and are received. Anthony Guillén, missioner for Latino/Hispanic ministries, strongly discourages this practice and advises groups to experience the incarnational aspect of the Posadas. “Mary and Joseph are rejected, homeless people,” Guillén says. “The whole point of the Posada is to remind us what it is like to experience cold and fatigue, so it is crucial for the Pilgrims to walk for a long time in the cold.”
Guillén encourages organizers to plan stops at least at 2 or 3 houses where the Pilgrims will be rejected before heading to their final destination. He also suggests that the event be used to raise awareness about homelessness or as a fundraiser for supporting the homeless or the needy.
Facing the music: Recruit people who can play portable instruments; guitars and accordions are good choices, but the spirit of the procession is more important than the quality of the music. If you have more than one musician, you may choose to have at least one play from inside “the inn.” Make copies of the lyrics or music. The Posadas song is traditional, and the music and lyrics vary slightly from region to region.
Walking the route: Once you have established the procession route, walk it in order to time it and identify any hazards, such as uneven sidewalks, icy spots, or poorly marked pedestrian crossings. For Posadas to be held at dusk, make sure you’ll have flashlights.
Announcing the Posadas: Explain to the congregation the plan: Departure time and place, things they may need to bring (such as warm clothing and flashlights), and parking and carpooling instructions. Tell the congregation that this is an especially good occasion to invite neighbors and friends. Use your online presence to promote this event. You may consider inviting congregations in partnership with yours and leaders of local organizations. Prepare posters and go door to door meeting and inviting the neighbors. You may also ask some neighbors for permission to use their homes as stops on the way to church. (See “Opportunities for evangelization” below).
Gathering: Start by meeting at someone’s home, preferably outside, or in the church’s parking lot. You may start with a simple Advent song and a prayer or an acclamation. A short prayer for travelers appears in page 831 of The Book of Common Prayer. An alternative prayer is offered here:
Emmanuel—God with us: We remember tonight the journey that your mother took as she and Joseph searched for lodging—a clean, safe place where she could give birth to you. We know that in our world, this very night, there are men, women, and children who are making exhausting or dangerous journeys; men, women, and children who are searching for lodging. We pray that doors will be opened to them. In Christ’s name, amen.
Reading: A short reading, particularly from Luke 2:1-7, may be appropriate.
Invitation: In addition to giving instructions and passing printed materials such as the itinerary and the lyrics, you may want to invite those gathered to see the walk as a true pilgrimage; you may invite them to reflect on the hardships that Joseph and Mary probably experienced in their journey to Bethlehem, the hardships of migrants who sometimes walk long distances escaping violence or poverty, or the hardships of those whom we tend to reject, such as the homeless.
Configuration: The procession can be configured in different ways. It could by headed by acolytes carrying a cross and candles and closed by people carrying statues or icons of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. Some processions are headed by children or adults dressed as Joseph and Mary. In more elaborate Posadas, Mary sometimes rides a donkey. Whatever you choose, make sure that the procession is safe and you follow local laws. Unless you have a police escort, avoid walking on the streets.
Singing: While some favor a quiet walk, others prefer the singing of simple a capella songs that might be appropriate for the occasion.
Asking for lodging: The Pilgrims ask for lodging by singing verse 1-4 of the Posadas song. The song can be sung in English, in Spanish, or in both languages. To have a stronger choir, some of the pilgrims may be asked to join the Innkeepers’ singing (perhaps by arriving a few minutes earlier or using a back door). If the group is very small and they Pilgrims and Innkeepers cannot hear one another, the door may be left ajar. After being rejected, process to the next stop. The musicians process with the Pilgrims every step of the way.
Entering the inn: At the final stop (typically the church or a large home), Pilgrims and Innkeepers sing the whole song, including verse 5 and the refrain. As the refrain starts, the doors are opened and the Pilgrims walk in.
Ideas for the Church Program
Once the Pilgrims enter “the inn”, you have a number of options. If the Pilgrims have already walked a long procession, you may choose to move directly to the refreshments. Otherwise, there could be a short program that could include a presentation, a discussion, and/or a liturgical component. Whatever you choose to do, it is traditional to share a communal meal and break a piñata (See “Engaging the Children” below).
Presentation or Discussion: Before or during the meal, there could also be a component that explicitly connects the Posada with one of these issues:
Homelessness in our community—and what we can do to fight it.
The biblical concept of hospitality.
Migration today—in our community, in our country, or in the world.
The Latino community in the place where we live.
Latino/Anglo relations in the place where we live.
The issue could be presented by a single person or through group discussion. Alternatively, the program could include one of the following:
A short presentation on how Christmas is celebrated in different parts of Latin America.
A short presentation by the leaders of a local Latino organization.
Liturgical Component: Before or after the meal, the program could include a song, a hymn, a reading, a short sermon, and/or a prayer. A reading from the Bible could retell to the Christmas story. Advent hymns or carols, preferably sung bilingually, could be part of the program. The order of Worship for the Evening, with references to darkness and light, may be particularly appropriate.
Latino-Anglo Engagement (for Anglo Congregations)
Here are some ways that the Posadas can be used to promote Latino-Anglo engagement:
□ Approach your Latino friends and neighbors and explain to them that your church is thinking of celebrating a Posada. Ask them for their advice and ask them to take part in the program: helping with the music, giving a short presentation on Latino Christmas traditions, teaching how to pronounce the words of the Posadas song, bringing traditional Christmas food, etc.
□ Invite Spanish-speaking members of your congregation or your diocese to give you advice and to help with the program. Invite your Latino friends and neighbors to participate.
□ Invite a local community leader who serves or advocates for Latinos to take a few minutes to explain what their organization does.
Engaging the Neighborhood
Whether your congregation is Latino, Anglo, or both, Posadas are great opportunities meet new people. Consider asking neighbors, even if not Episcopalians, to allow the Pilgrims to knock at their door and “be rejected” with the Posadas song. Here’s some ideas on how to do it:
- Knock on some of the neighbors’ homes and introduce yourself.
- Briefly explain what Posadas are and explain that you congregation will do a pilgrimage through the neighborhood on a specific date.
- Ask the neighbor if it could be ok to receive a musician or a few church to stand behind your door to “reject” Joseph and Mary on their way to the “Inn.”
- Thank them and invite them to join the event.
- Place Posadas announcements around the neighborhood.
Children have always been an important part of the Posadas. In some parts, children dress up as Joseph and Mary, pilgrims, angels, and shepherds for the procession. In most parts of Latin America children break a piñata and also receive special gift bags known as colaciones or aguinaldos. The bags may include some candy or fruit, with the exact contents varying from region to region. Here’s some ideas for engaging the children in the preparations:
□ Have the teachers explain to the children the Posadas tradition.
□ Have the children learn the Posadas song.
□ Have the children make the piñata.
For detailed instructions on how to build a traditional 5-cone piñata, watch this video clip: https://youtu.be/44JYARhkFe8. Since at least six hours must pass between the applying 3-4 layers of paper, the making of a piñata will take several sessions.
In some regions, traditional piñatas have the shape of a seven-cone star. Children are sometimes taught that the piñata and its cones represent sin, with garish colors and ribbons that tempt the soul. The blindfold that is placed on the children represents living or walking by faith alone. The breaking of the piñata is said to be a symbol of how we can triumph over temptation. The falling candy illustrates the grace of God.
A Final Note: Welcoming Diversity
Your Posadas will be unique. You may encounter musicians who will insist that their version of the Posadas song is the only authentic one, or you may run into pilgrims who may start singing “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” while they process. Don’t forget that Posadas have always been a diverse tradition. The concept of hospitality is at the heart of the Posadas, and part of that hospitality could mean welcoming forms of participation that diverge from your original plan.
The Forward Movement page on Posadas: www.VenAdelante.org/posadas
Wikipedia article: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Las_Posadas
Article at MexConnect : www.mexconnect.com/articles/2816-las-posadas
Page to share with others pictures and videos of your Posadas: www.facebook.com/
The chords for guitar, the Posadas song, and other ideas are available in videos posted at: www.VenAdelante.org/posadas
The Posadas Ecuatorianas on YouTube: https://youtu.be/2rnvypgJ-9E
Note: These Posadas, popular in Ecuador, have different music and lyrics.
Una explicación sobre el origen de las Posadas en México y otras tradiciones navideñas
de la Torre, William. Novena de Navidad: Unos días de reflexión durante el Adviento preparándonos para el nacimiento de Jesús en nuestros corazones. 2008. Available online at this link: www.VenAdelante.org/posadas
García, Francisco J. Cheer Our Spirits, Make Safe the Way: Meditations for Advent and Christmas. Forward Movement, 2012. www.VenDelante.org/cheer
García, Francisco J. Alegra nuestro espíritu, haz seguro nuestro camino: Meditaciones para el Adviento y la Navidad. Forward Movement, 2012. www.VenAdelante.org/alegra
Rodríguez, Isaías. Devociones populares celebradas por los hispanos, pp. 76-79. Oficina del Ministerio Hispano, 2005.