I grew up in Argentina—far away from the countries that celebrate Posadas. I experienced my first Posada in 1999, at a time when my spouse, who is Anglo, and I were worshipping with a predominantly Mexican congregation in Salt Lake City. Three years later, we invited our friends from that church for the first Posada we ever held in our home. I loved the opportunity to welcome our friends, and I felt that the message of the Posadas is simple yet powerful: By welcoming the poor and the needy, as with Joseph and Mary, we are welcoming Jesus into our midst.
The Posadas (Spanish for inn, lodging, or shelter) are an Advent candlelight procession and celebration. 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. Through song, the Posadas reenact Mary and Joseph’s long, frustrating search for a place where Jesus could be born. This tradition re-enacts the story told in Luke 2:1-7—but with a twist: At the end of the song, instead of rejecting them, the “innkeeper” welcomes Mary and Joseph into the home.
This year, I want to challenge you to get your family involved in a Posada. It does not have to be a big production, and it does not have to be repeated for nine days. In the U.S., a growing number of congregations, both Latino and Anglo, are adapting the tradition of the Posadas into a one-night event. The whole congregation, as well as neighbors and friends, are invited to participate.
You may be wondering if it’s ok for a non-Latino family to appropriate this tradition. Based on my own experience, my answer is a resounding yes. The Posadas are, above all, a cultural tradition. Latinos are overwhelmingly pleased to see Americans adopt (and adapt!) traditional Posadas. At the end of the Posada song, it is not only Joseph and Mary, but all the Pilgrims who are invited into the inn. This, it seems to me, points to a profound theological reality: whether Galileans or Judeans, whether Anglos, Latinos, or anything in between, we are all in this journey together, following the same Jesus.
Here are three ways your family might participate in a Posada:
1. Take your family to a Posada celebrated by a local church. Offer to bring your guitar and help play the song, dress up your children as angels or shepherds, or help with the food.
2. Organize a Posada in your own church. On the page posted at VenAdelante.org/posadas, you will find everything you need: a complimentary guide geared toward congregations, YouTube and MP3 versions of the Posadas song, and links to a Facebook page where people and churches are posting pictures and videos of their own Posadas. Produced by Forward Movement, all these materials are free of charge in both English and Spanish.
3. Organize your own home Posadas! The guide you’ll find at VenAdelante.org/posadas can be easily adapted to a home setting. Invite one or two more families to celebrate with you. Have the children learn the Posadas song beforehand, and ask them to make a piñata.
Above all, relax! If this is your first Posada, start small. Ask for advice from Latino friends, but remember there are no wrong ways to celebrate Posadas. Enjoy the opportunity to spend time with friends and family, share a meal, and remind children that we’re joyfully awaiting the birth of Jesus.
Have you ever celebrated Posadas? Where and when?