As Christians, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves… but what if our neighbor isn’t at all like us? How can we better equip ourselves to serve as Christ served, to extend love unconditionally? We humans share more in common than we’d sometimes like to think, and one thing is true for all of us — we need love. We experience love when we are seen, heard, and understood. As we approach a holiday season that is fully rooted in the Christian faith, we have the opportunity to extend love to those who believe differently, but belong infinitely to the same love we so gratefully experience in Christ. But where to start? With a desire to see, hear, and understand. More often than not, we find shared values that we can celebrate together in our own different ways on the long journey home.
In this series, we explore why we celebrate and we encourage you to ask your friends and neighbors who celebrate these holidays to share their favorite traditions. As with Christmas, there are myriad meaningful ways to rejoice.
Las Posadas: The Epic Journey
If you happen to be in Mexico, Central America, or Cuba between December 16 and Christmas Eve, you might find yourself swept up in the merry festivity of Las Posadas. Increasingly celebrated in the United States too, this Christian festival commemorates the epic journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem as they searched for shelter, ultimately landing in a barn where Mary would give birth to the Christ Child. Dating back to the 900s AD, Las Posadas was originally envisioned by the Catholic Church as a way to teach the story of Christmas to those who could not read, and today Las Posadas is a popular celebration for religious and non-religious alike.
It begins with a small child, in angel gown and wings, leading the way for a merry band of celebrants dressed up like characters from that first Christmas — shepherds, wise men, angels and of course Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus. Depending on the church, the processional may consist primarily of children robed in silver and gold carrying candles and images of Mary and Joseph, other times grown men parade life-size replicas of the Nativity hoisted across their shoulders. The expressions vary, but for nine nights to represent the nine months Mary was pregnant with Jesus, the processional makes its way through the town, knocking on doors, seeking shelter. Their neighbors are in on the story, and playing the role of innkeepers, they respond to their requests with gregarious and hearty refusals, as Mary and Joseph were told there was no room in the inn. In fact, las posadas translates in English to “the inns.” These “innkeepers” rarely let the inquirants leave without some refreshment however, and at every stop, carols, or “villancicos,” are sung, and blessings exchanged. One song in particular must be sung at each house — the Posada litany — a call and response between the innkeepers and Mary and Joseph.
Finally, on the ninth night the Holy Family is granted shelter and great celebration ensues. Children break open a piñata, often crafted in the form of a seven-pointed star to represent the legendary Star of Bethlehem that guided the three wise men to Jesus. Adults bust out karaoke machines and the delicious Ponche Navideño, a Christmas punch that packs a jolly punch. Every night of Las Posadas concludes with a mass. “As far as Posada, the best thing is the unity in anticipation of Christ’s coming, the true meaning of Christmas.”
Make your own Ponche Navideño with this recipe from Garden to Glass author and mixologist extraordinaire, Mike Wolfe.
Ponche Navideño Mexicano
- 2 oz Reposado Tequila
- .75 oz lime
- .75 oz pomegranate juice
- .5 oz orange juice
- .5 oz pineapple juice
- .5 oz light agave nectar
- Dash of cinnamon
- Dash of nutmeg
*To make sugar spice, mix together:
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 T sugar
For the kiddos, try this non-alcoholic Ponche Navideño Mexicano. Mike Wolf says you can find these ingredients in your local Mexican grocery.
Virgin Ponche Navideño
- 1 gallon water
- 6 guavas
- 2 pears, chopped
- 1 pineapple, chopped
- 2 cups pomegranate juice
- 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
- 2 cinnamon sticks, toasted in a skillet
And while we’re at it, how about making a piñata too?
- Find a cardboard box that isn’t too rigid. This will be the basic form of your piñata, so choose a shape and size that suits the occasion and amount of treats you’ll hide inside.
- Using wrapping paper and other festive decor, decorate the box in Las Posadas cheer.
- Cut a small hole in the top and fill it with toys and candy.
- Punch two smaller holes on either side of the main hole and loop it with string or ribbon to hang the piñata.
- Test the weight as you fill it up to make sure the hanging loop can hold it. Then have at it!