As we draw closer to Christmas, we recognize the need to prepare for the coming of Jesus into our lives. The Church offers us these means of preparation through a
variety of opportunities and traditions. These traditions are lived out concretely as faith and culture unite, expressing our faith and solidarity. Novenas are a common way to prepare for the special solemnities that honor the different moments of the life of Jesus throughout the liturgical year.
During this holiday season, parents might want to introduce their children to a tradition called Las Posadas. It is very beneficial to expose children to different cultures and teach them about how other families may prepare for the birth of Christ.
Las Posadas is an ancient Christmas novena communally celebrated especially in Mexico, Latin America, and the United States. It begins on Dec. 16, nine days before Christmas and offers a lived experience of preparing for the birth of Christ as a community with songs, prayers and faith-filled activities. In Spanish, Las Posadas means “lodging” or “inn” and this tradition focuses on Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem as she prepares to give birth to Jesus.
Accompanying the holy family in prayer and action reminds us that we too, as disciples of Jesus and members of His Church, are on a journey of holiness, traveling together to our Heavenly home. We want to recognize Christ’s presence among us as He seeks refuge in the homes of our hearts. His knock may come in the stillness of prayer as we recognize His desire to rest with us after Holy Communion or we may notice His plea for posadas in the distress of the poor and homeless. Wherever we hear His invitation, nine days of reenacting the situation of Joseph and Mary heightens our attention to the many ways Christ approaches us in our daily lives.
While families’ experiences of Las Posadas vary according to region and local customs, all gatherings include prayers, singing, the reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s journey, piñatas and refreshments with fellowship. Children dress up like Joseph and Our Lady. They knock on doors as different choirs sing through a dialogue between Joseph and the innkeeper. Joseph begs for shelter and the innkeeper counters with many excuses and dismissals. Finally, the door is opened, and everyone welcomes the holy family with joy and gratitude.
Renata Soto, a parishioner at St. Philip Benizi, recalled her experience of Las Posadas in her hometown of La Higuera, Mexico.
“Since our town only had 60 families, everyone participated in Las Posadas,” she said. “Families take turns hosting the evening’s celebration in their homes, praying and singing carols. Then they process to the local church while praying the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. When we arrived at the church, the children enjoyed breaking the piñatas and refreshments were offered. It was a beautiful experience of being on pilgrimage together.”
“The piñata, which is in the shape of a seven-pointed star, also serves as a means for catechesis,” explained Marivel Alvarado, Director of Faith Formation at St. Philip Benizi in Fullerton. “The seven points remind us of the seven deadly sins. It’s colorful because sin is attractive. The stick that is used to hit the piñata represents our will and determination to overcome sin. We are blindfolded during this experience because overcoming sin requires an act of faith and guidance from others. When we break free from sin, we receive grace, or in this case treats from the piñata!”
Everyone should experience the tradition of Las Posadas. Many parishes in the Diocese of Orange are planning to host this novena and all are welcome.
At St. Philip Benizi Church in Fullerton, Marivel is planning a special event on Dec. 17 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. that will include bilingual presentations about Las Posadas and other traditions that prepare us for Christmas. They will sell tamales and funnel cakes as well. Parish ministries will host Las Posadas each night from Dec. 16 to Dec. 23 (except Dec. 18) at St. Philip Benizi at 7 p.m. where they will pray together and offer refreshments.
At Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Santa Ana, Margarita Acevedo who serves the Parishioner Relations Specialist, is planning a nightly gathering for Las Posadas at 6 p.m. from Dec. 16 to Dec. 24. Each night will include a 6 p.m. procession and Rosary; 7 p.m. Mass in Spanish, followed by refreshments and piñatas.
“Many people from the parish come every day,” shared Acevedo. “The Aguilar family started this custom at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church which now has been hosting it for many decades.”
At Our Lady of La Vang Church in Santa Ana, Paola Flores, Coordinator of Hispanic Ministries, is also organizing Las Posadas from Dec. 16 to Dec. 23. Every night is led by a different ministry group and choir. They will read from Scripture, reenact the search of the holy family for lodging and conclude with piñatas and refreshments.
“This experience makes our faith accessible to families, especially children.” said Flores. “It is one of the most important moments to proclaim what we believe and receive the joy of our faith.”
During this season of Advent, Las Posadas offers an invitation to us all: do we want to be the home that offers hospitality to the holy family or will we be the ones to turn them away? Let us prepare our hearts for the coming of our King Jesus!