Thursday, December 16, 2010

Las Posadas

I hear the church's bell ring and I cannot believe it is so late already. The whole day seems to be a blur now, yet I could not have possible done anything that would have deprived me of reality and losing track of time. Oh, wait! I did! I went to a lunch that took too many hours out of town with my friends. Sea food is a weakness of ours at this time of the year and in this particular part of the planet. But I digress, I must hurry and get ready for the posada. It is the first of the year. I cannot miss it.
I hear the bell ring again. Oh, I am in trouble! I am not ready. I am running out of time quickly. I have minutes left before I have to start walking to the plaza to meet my friends.
Oh, oh the bell is about to ring one last time. My grandma starts asking if I am ready because it is so late and I am still at home. I tell her I am waiting for my cousin to drop by so I can walk with her, and she continues on about how I should just go with my sisters. But I will wait and we will all walk together. The last call rings on our way, eight o'clock. We know we are late! But we should have enough time to meet our friends and miss the prayer the priest says before the posada starts. Once all my friends are reunited and the prayer is over, we head over to where almost the whole town has gathered at the church's forecourt to start the posada. Some of the elders and babies are missing as are the people in whose street the posada will be held the night in question.
The posadas are a reenactment of what the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph experience the night Jesus was born: their incessant search for a place to sleep in Bethlehem. So there is a nativity scene either being carried or portrayed lived as the posada moves along. The choir is in the front directing the caroling while the rest of the people from the town follow behind. The older people are in the front and then the younger as might be expected. So everyone walks on the chosen street for the night caroling and making a stop at every house at which a posada is held, which is basically the nativity scene extremely well represented and nearly thousands of decorations. At these stops, those who held the posada give away candles and mini fireworks such as the sparklers, but not limited to such, to illuminate the way –in a symbolic manner, of course. Some houses also have a mini fireworks show right outside their house as those walking on the posada approach. As in the story in the bible, the people walking as part of the posada are not allowed to stay anywhere and they must keep walking along the street. It goes on and on until the end of the street is reached, please kids keep in mind that I come from a very small town. Nonetheless, this walk can last anywhere from an hour to an hour an a half. Whereas all the houses along the way are open and the nativity scene is visible to everyone, the last house is closed and the people outside sing alternating with the people inside, which is a game of “let me in” and “asking why.” Finally, after much begging through the Christmas carols, the door opens and the nativity scene that was part of the posada stays inside the house, if it was carried. If it was live, it simply returns with the people to the church’s forecourt. 
After the posada is over, everyone returns to where it began -the church's forecourt. The children line up and they receive aguinaldos, goodie bags that contain many different kinds of candy both the type available year-round and that only available for the season. These goodie bags are also filled with animal cookies and peanuts. We sit around the plaza, and the people who held the posadas at their house -where we stopped throughout the walk, provide us with atole and/or ponche. Then, teenagers and young adults usually go to dinner at the local taquerias or some prefer to but tortas. It is a random act. Most young people remain at the plaza and hang out there for a while or go eat and then come back while the older people just go home and call it a night. Then, we repeat the complete ordeal the night after. This is exactly what the nights from December 16th to December 24th look like when I am in Mexico. While our days fly by, we around with my friends as part of the posada at night; and, if there is a baile, we make an extended appearance.
My grandparents on my mother's side of the family are part of the posada on December 20th. While most of the family participates in setting up the nativity scene, the Christmas tree, the Christmas lights and the decorations, the younger generation along with my grandma prepare the aguinaldos, which are famous in town for having some of the best candy. All the grandchildren look forward to this event because my grandma allows us to especial aguinaldos for us, which you kids might have figured we fill with our favorite candy and forgo the rest of what should be inside the bag!
As a religious celebration in Mexico this originated in 1587 and was simple a mass followed by a show of fireworks and Christmas caroling. It took two hundred years or so for the celebration to be centered on the neighborhoods rather than the church, but it happened. The posadas evolved through the years to include more secular activities and to accommodate those younger generations who are not interested in the religious part of the celebration. The posadas have become about spending time with friends and family, whom unfortunately for us we do not see very often. It is also a time for enjoying great food everyday. The holiday season in Mexico is thus a true season that lasts for about two months. I invite you kids to contrast such celebrations with that of the extremely commercialized Christmas one-day celebration for those who were lucky enough to have the day off work that occurs in the US!


©Copyrighted 2010

p.s. There are, of course, many other celebrations occurring parallel to the posadas around this time in my dear motherland, but those are stories for a different post. hehe

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