Las Posadas in the Catholic Church

La Gran Posada at Little Flower Basilica

By Cheyenne Cisneros

Las Posadas is a festival that asks: “Who will accept this child? Who will find room in their heart for the son of God, Jesus?”

Las Posadas are founded in Mexican-American tradition in the Catholic faith. The way we celebrate them is unique and beyond breath-taking to experience. Each church and community is different, offering a variety of experiences for those willing to travel in La Virgen and St. Joseph’s shoes.

Las Posadasare a nine-day novena, starting December 16 and ending on December 24, usually followed by the midnight Christmas Eve Mass. The nine-day novena is meant to correlate with the nine months that La Virgen de Guadalupe held the baby Jesus in her womb.

The faithful gather and, in front of neighborhood homes, sing Christmas carols and songs that include the following lyrics , “En el nombre del Cielo os pido posada, puesno puede andar,mi esposa amada,” which, roughly translates to “In the name of Heaven I ask you for lodging, because She cannot walk, my beloved wife.”

The travelers continue this way until a home finally allows them to come inside, where the group is welcomed with food and warm drinks. This event is repeated for nine days within a parish community, until December 24, when the parish comes together for a midnight Mass at their church, welcoming the birth of the baby Jesus for December 25.

Las Posadas put Catholics into the shoes of La Virgen and St. Joseph, asking to be housed in a time of need. Mexican-American Catholics relate to the sufferings described in the Bible, from their history of being oppressed and outcast. The Holy Family went out in the winter weather to visit strangers’ homes and ask for shelter and food. This experience is many things, one of them being humbling.

Being humble is something that I believe most Mexican-Americans are. While we do pride ourselves on our culture, traditions, and spirituality, we also know what it is to suffer and come from nothing, the roots and dirt of the land. Even in today’s generations, there are stories in each family of how they grew up on rice and beans, and what a pleasure it is to have such a variety of foods before them now. We pray before every meal, asking God to bless the food He has provided.

Las Posadas ask Catholics to forget about their status in life; just come outside with your soul and ask for shelter, as La Virgen and St. Joseph did, two thousand years before our time. Ask for shelter and feel the rejection and hope swirling in your belly as you walk to the next home. The rejection of your own community, as La Virgen and St.Joseph were denied by their own people; the rejection of your own friends, as Jesus was denied by his apostles and followers.

Emotions are tangible within the Mexican-American culture. Rejection, that is a bite on the tongue and a prayer under the breath that the next home gives shelter. Hope? Hope is singing the songs, once more, with a prayer in the back of your throat. Hope is the bravery to persevere and ask, again, for at least an invitation inside.

The culture of Mexican-Americans is one of perseverance. Through it all, we still thrive. We still sing with our voices full of power and faith. We still dance with our feet full of rhythm and weight. Our culture is a part of our faith, our faith a part of our culture. There is no pulling the two apart.

Being Latino is to be a people who were taught the Catholic faith and who adapted to it, with a twist of our own. The Catholic Church as seen in our eyes is one of many practices and traditions. Our pride of culture shows in our celebrations—our festivities are celebrated through the church—from quinceneras to presentations of a newborn child. Las Posadas are not so different, a tradition that Mexican-Americans related to and integrated into the Advent season.

The celebration of Las Posadas is meaningful to us because it is a reminder that we are not guaranteed a home, but, with God’s grace, we will always have a home for our soul. Given free will, our neighbors have every right to refuse us; given a soul in which God guides and inspires, our neighbors are pulled to invite us in.

The posadas re-enact Mary and Joseph’scold, arduous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter, which is exactly what we do in our streets and parish neighborhood homes. Just as we are so heavily centered on our family lives, so too is the Church asking us to be centered around the family that is the body of Christ.


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