Christmas in Mexico is fun. There is lots of music, great weather, a festival feel and a wonderful tradition that local families love. Los Posadas could be easily be explained as 9 days of traveling cocktail parties but there is a bid more to these festivities than just great food and drink.
When we make the suggestion that this tradition is one worth adopting, not for the deep roots in religion but for the community involvement this traditions provides.
So here is the religious story behind Las Posadas. Las Posadas are a tradition brought to Latin America by the Spanish and adopted in both Mexico and Guatemala. Starting December 16th at dusk, families, friends and neighbors dress up as angels and shepherds. Two people are dressed as Mary and Joseph. The group re-enacts the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph as they walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem in their neighborhood. At each neighborhood home, the group sings a song in hopes to have a place to stay. They are turned down at each home until eventually a neighbor will invite the group in (this is determined in advance) and the festivities begin. Drinks, food, and a star shaped piñata define this evening fiesta. As the night draws to an end, aguinaldos (small bags filled with treats and candies) are distributed as parting gifts to the guests to help them continue on their “journey.”
The process repeats for eight nights with another home accepting the group for another evening festival. On December 24th, the ninth and final night of the Posada, everyone attends midnight mass. Midnight mass is called Misa de Gallo, Mass of the Rooster. Then the real celebrations begin after mass. Santa Claus does not arrive, Christmas presents are not exchanged, this is not part of the Mexican traditional Christmas. Families go home to a big meal of traditional family delicacies and a joyous exchange of friendship, love and families. Gift giving happens January 6th on Kings Day, not on Christmas Day.
Though rooted in religion, many people are attracted to this tradition purely for community. Gathering with friends and family each evening, singing songs door to door, sharing food and drink for a few hours. This sense of community is what makes this tradition popular with both Catholics and non Catholics. The candle procession from house to house as singers seek out the invite into a local home makes this festival a beautiful event to watch and enjoy.
Whether you adopt the religious significance or not, hosting your own Posada is a ton of fun. Think Christmas carols, great Mexican food, margaritas, tequila and a piñata. Gift bags for each departing guest is also a great way to end a party. Take community to heart and open your home to family and friends over the holidays.
Check out our favorite local recipes on our Local Scoop blog and bring a little Mexico to your house this Christmas.