This Sunday, the nine-day celebration of Las Posadas begins. Originally from Spain, this tradition is now most commonly practiced in Mexico, Guatemala, and the American Southwest. The posadas are symbolic of the nine months that Mary carried Jesus in her womb; they always start on December 16th and end on December 24th.
Each night, families gather together in different homes (usually around their neighborhood) and reenact Mary and Joseph pidiendo posada – or their plea for lodging – when they traveled back to Bethlehem.
Typically, the group divides into two sets of singers – one inside and the other outside. The outside group carries small candles, sheet music, and small statues of Mary and Joseph and their little burro. Sometimes two children will be chosen to dress up like the Virgin and her husband instead. Other children may dress as shepherds and an angel, who leads the procession. The group inside represents the innkeeper.
Then the singing begins. Both groups sing back and forth — those outside (the peregrinos) asking for shelter, and those inside refusing to grant it. Until finally, the innkeepers agree and let the peregrinos in with joyful singing from both groups. What follows afterward is a feast of tamales, ponche, buñuelos, and champurrado (Mexican hot chocolate).
We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite resources for kids, but you can find a comprehensive list of lesson plans, activities, books, and more here on my site, MommyMaestra.com.
First, take a look at this excellent video created by The Other Side of the Tortilla describing the tradition of Las Posadas. Younger children might prefer this animated video created years ago by Disney.
For music, you can buy or download Las Posadas/Entren Santos Peregrinos by Donna Peña. This is the traditional song, beautifully sung by adults.
As far as crafts go, we love this poinsettia craft from First Palette. Also, Scholastic has some printable craft ideas including a little candle cutout and miniature piñata. Crayola has this fun and easy luminary path craft that kids of any age can create. If your child is into paper dolls, check out this Posada-themed paper doll pdf set from Paper Dali on etsy. And lastly, Sabor a Cajeta has put together this awesome tutorial for creating your own traveling nacimiento. Made out of wood, this little nativity is perfect for children and their little fingers.
Our favorite book, The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola, is set in the American Southwest. In this lovely story, Sister Angie has organized a Las Posadas celebration, but on the night of the posada, a snowstorm hits, leaving the couple to play Mary and Joseph stranded…and Sister Angie is stuck at home sick. It seems that only a miracle will be able to save Las Posadas.
Carlos, Light the Farolitos by Jean Ciavonne is also a lovely description of the celebration. On Christmas Eve, young Carlos is dismayed to see the procession of neighbors and friends coming up the front walk. His parents and grandfather aren’t home yet. So it’s up to him to take over Grandfather’s role as the Innkeeper. But he’s so frightened he can hardly breathe, let alone sing! Carlos’s triumph over his shyness, and the joyful celebration that follows, make this a satisfying story for any season.
Monica Olivera Hazelton, NBC Latino contributor and the founder and publisher of MommyMaestra.com, a site for Latino families that homeschool, as well as families with children in a traditional school setting who want to take a more active role in their children’s education. She is the 2011 winner of the “Best Latina Education Blogger” award by LATISM.