That evening, in the main Oaxaca square, there's a "posada". “Posada” is Spanish for shelter or inn; a lot of hotels in Mexico have a name that includes the word “posada.” But in this case, a posada is a procession that children perform to reenact Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem to be counted in the census and their attempt to find a safe place to spend the night and for Mary to give birth to Jesus.
Because Mexico is so heavily Catholic, Christmas is one of the major holidays, and December is full of festivals and ceremonies honoring the holiday as well as Jesus and Mary, such as the Festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe that we saw in Merida.. Both Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary are important figures in Catholicism, so honoring Mary’s journey and Jesus’s birth is a long-standing tradition in Mexico.
A posada isn’t just a one-time thing, though. For nine nights, representing the length of Mary and Joseph’s trip, children parade through their town carrying candles, figures of Mary riding on the donkey, and figures of Joseph. They stop at neighbors’ houses to sing a song about Mary and Joseph. The song includes a request for a room for the night. At most homes, the children are told there’s no room, but finally they find a house where they’re invited in for a party, including plenty of food.
This happens for each of the nine nights of posadas, until Christmas Eve, when a nativity scene is set up at the house that welcomes the children. When they find the house, they place a figure of the baby Jesus in the manger, and then everyone goes to midnight mass, followed often by a fireworks display. Pretty different from the way people celebrate Christmas in a lot of the US! But posadas are becoming popular in some parts of the US, especially places with a large Hispanic population.
We definitely enjoyed watching the posada in Oaxaca. Some of the children walked, while others rode in the backs of pickup trucks decorated like parade floats, with balloons and other colorful things. The children all wore costumes, mostly to resemble Mary and Joseph or shepherds of the time. There were also angels, though, and for some reason there was even a child dressed like a devil. Seeing the first night of this annual Christmas tradition gave us another taste of real Mexican life and the importance of religion in their culture.
Bible, just before Jesus is born, Mary and Joseph are homeless and
walk around looking for a place to spend the night. Here, these kids
re-enact that trek.
Click prev or next to continue Johnny Monsarrat Mexican Trip.