Culture

There’s No Mexican Christmas Without Posadas: We Rounded Up 11 Facts About Them That You Probably Never Knew About

For many Latinos, the word posada, evokes chilly nights surrounded by family and friends, singing, enjoying a warm meal (of tamales and ponche, of course), and spreading holiday cheer all around. If you have never been lucky enough to be invited to one of these celebrations, read on to find out a few facts that will explain what posadas are all about.

1. The word posada literally means ‘inn or lodging’, and traditionally posadas are a celebration of the Christmas story.

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Posadas involve a reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for a shelter where the Virgin Mary could safely give birth to Jesus in Bethlehem.

2. Posadas are a distinctly Mexican Catholic tradition, which is also celebrated all over Latin America and even across the world.

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The tradition has spread to places like Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salavador, and many other Latin American countries, but it originated in Mexico as a Spanish celebration used by friars to convert indigenous people into Catholicism.

3. Posadas are a  celebration of the novenario before christmas.

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‘Novenario’ means nine days, which means that posadas take place during the nine days before Christmas Eve. The none days running up to Christmas, represent the nine months of The Virgin Mary’s pregnancy. In Colombia, this period of time is called ‘La Novena’, and it‘s turned into a celebration similar to posadas but that in Colombia, Venezela and Ecuador is known as ‘La Novena de Aguinaldos’.

4. Posadas in Mexico began as a way for the Spaniards to teach native people about Christmas.

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During the nine days leading up to Christmas Day, masses would include representations of Mary and Joseph. Following mass, there would be a party where people were blindfolded before hitting a piñata with a stick, a representation of faith defeating temptation with the help of virtue. The fruits and sweets that poured out of the piñata represented the joys of union with God.

5. At the beginning of a posada, people are divided in two groups, the ones “outside” representing Mary and Joseph, and the ones “inside” representing innkeepers.

Then everyone sings the posada litany together, re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s search, going back and forth until they are finally “admitted” to an inn. After this traditional part, the actual party starts. Posadas have spread to other countries — such as Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela; and the celebrations vary by location.

6. Piñatas are a quintessential part of posadas.

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Although they have mostly lost their original religious meaning, piñatas remain an essential part of las posadas. Mexico. Piñatas come in all shapes and sizes, but star shaped pinatas are the ones traditionally used in posadas. In fact, these star-shaped piñata’s 7 points represent the seven deadly sins. Most Mexicans are catholic and piñatas were a way to teach children about religion in a fun way. Piñatas represent being tempted by evil and the tradition of hitting them blindfolded symbolizes overcoming evil through blind faith.

7. Posadas are the occasion when moms and abuelas finally make the delicious ”Ponche Navideño” or Mexican Christmas Punch.

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A hot, flavorful drink that for many is synonymous with the holidays. Its ingredients vary from state to state, but it is traditionally prepared with tejocote (Mexican hawthorn), sugarcane, tamarind, apple, pear, guayaba, and cinnamon sticks. Some hosts will also offer their adult guests ponche con piquete – punch with a sting of alcohol, usually tequila or rum.

8. The posada litany is a traditional sung exchange that abuelas remember by heart and have passed down to younger generations since time immemorial.

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The traditional song which both “sides” of the reenactment sing while holding candles asking for ‘posada’ goes a little like this: “Eeeen el nombre del cieeeelo, ooos pido posaaaada (note the emphasis on the vowels, if you grew up singing these, you’ll know), pueees no puede andaaar mi esposa amada” (In the name of God I ask you for shelter for my beloved wife can’t go on) begin the Joseph and Mary group: the inne keepers reply denying them entry.

9. At the end of the litany, when the innkeeper finally decides to give Mary and Joseph a place to stay; both parties celebrate.

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As per tradition, the pilgrims carry colored candles and sparklers that symbolize the light that leads the way to the manger, and everyone gets to light sparklers in celebration at the end of the litany. After the litanies and the pilgrimage are over, everyone goes back to the house, where the real party starts.

10. The traditional “aguinaldo“ or ‘goodie bag’ that children get at Mexican birthday parties, originated from posadas.

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So they say, that thanks to Friar, Diego de Soria, the first posadas were celebrated in colonial Mexico around the year 1587. Back then, they used to celebrate “misas de aguinaldo” (Christmas mass), which were called like that because on these masses they offered a gift or Christmas box to the kids; this consisted of fruits, candies or toys. On the posadas the “aguinaldo” is represented by snacks, and even up to this day, kids can still expect a little aguinaldo at the end of the party.

11. Posadas were a means to convert indigenous peoples to Christianity.

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It’s said that posadas go all the way back to the time when the indigenous people celebrated during the winter or panquetzaliztli the advent of Huitzilopochtli, God of the War. For centuries, the Aztecs celebrated the birth of their god Huitzilopochtil around Christmas time. Huitzilopochtil was an important god of war who led the Aztec’s ancestors to the valley of mexico in what is now Mexico City.

Seeing the similarities between Christmas and Huitzilopochtil’s birth, Augustine priests were able to gradually convert the natives to Christianity. They realized that they couldn’t eradicate the holiday, but instead use it to gain new converts. This strategy also worked with Day of the Dead, as it was a former indigenous holiday turned catholic celebration coinciding with all saints day.

Does Anybody Really Know What’s Supposed To Happen After You Get The Baby Jesus Figurine In La Rosca De Reyes?

Culture

Does Anybody Really Know What’s Supposed To Happen After You Get The Baby Jesus Figurine In La Rosca De Reyes?

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Remember Día de Reyes when everyone cuts the rosca and hopes to god not to get the little niño Jesus? If you grew up Mexican, you probably know that whoever gets the baby Jesus figurine owes everyone tamales. But when is the tamal party? And most importantly—why? Keep reading to find out what El Día de la Candelaria means, what your abuelitas and tías are actually celebrating and how it originated —spoiler alert: it’s colonization.

February 2nd may be Groundhog Day in the United States, but in Mexico, and for many Latinos outside of Mexico, there is a completely different celebration on this date.

The religious holiday is known as Día de la Candelaria (or Candlemas in English). And on this day of the year, people get together with family and friends to eat tamales, as a continuation of the festivities of Three Kings’ Day on January 6. 

This is why your abuelita dresses up her niño Jesús in extravagant outfits.

For Día de la Candelaria it’s customary for celebrants to dress up figures of the Christ Child in special outfits and take them to the church to be blessed. Día de la Candelaria is traditionally a religious and family celebration, but in some places, such as Tlacotalpan, in the state of Veracruz, it is a major fiesta with fairs and parades.

February 2nd is exactly forty days after Christmas and is celebrated by the Catholic church as the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin.

Alternatively, this day also counts as the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The origin of this religious feast day comes from ancient Jewish tradition. According to Jewish law, a woman was considered unclean for 40 days after giving birth, and it was customary to bring a baby to the temple after that period of time had passed. So the idea is that Mary and Joseph would have taken Jesus to the temple to be blessed on February second, forty days after his birth on December 25.

The tradition goes back to around the 11th Century in Europe.

People typically took candles to the church to be blessed as part of the celebration. This tradition was based on the biblical passage of Luke 2:22-39 which recounts how when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple, a particularly devout man named Simeon embraced the child and prayed the Canticle of Simeon: “Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” The reference to the light inspired the celebration of the blessing of the candles.

In Mexico Día de la Candelaria is a follow-up to the festivities of Three Kings Day on January 6th.

On Día De Reyes, when children receive gifts, families and friends gather together to eat Rosca de Reyes, a special sweet bread with figurines of a baby (representing the Child Jesus) hidden inside. The person (or people) who received the figurines on Three Kings Day are supposed to host the party on Candlemas Day. Tamales are the food of choice.

This tradition also carries Pre-Hispanic roots.

After the Spanish conquistadors introduced the Catholic religion and masked indigenous traditions with their own, to help spread evangelization, many villagers picked up the tradition of taking their corn to the church in order to get their crops blessed after planting their seeds for the new agricultural cycle that was starting. They did this on February 2, which was the eleventh day of the first month on the Aztec calendar —which coincidentally fell on the same day as the Candelaria celebration. It’s believed that this is why, to this day, the celebratory feast on February 2 is all corn-based —atole and tamales.

This date is special for other reasons too… 

February 2, marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, which aligns with the pagan holiday of Imbolc. Since ancient times, this date was thought to be a marker or predictor of the weather to come, which is why it is also celebrated as Groundhog Day in the United States. There was an old English saying that went “if Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter has another flight. If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again.” In many places, this is traditionally seen as the best time to prepare the earth for spring planting.

In Perú the Fiesta de la Candelaria is a festival in honor of the Virgin of Candelaria, patron saint of the city of Puno and it is one of the biggest festivals of culture, music, and dancing in the country.

The huge festival brings together the Catholic faith and Andean religion in homage to the Virgin of Candelaria. The Virgin represents fertility and purity. She is the patron saint of the city and is strongly associated with the Andean deity of ‘Pachamama’ (‘mother earth’). It is this common factor of both religions that brings them together for the festival. In 2014, UNESCO declared the festival an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The main dates of ‘Fiesta de la Candelaria’ are February 2nd – 12th.

Now That Christmas Is Over, A Lot Of Latinos Are Getting Ready For Día De Reyes—Here’s What The Tradition Is All About

Culture

Now That Christmas Is Over, A Lot Of Latinos Are Getting Ready For Día De Reyes—Here’s What The Tradition Is All About

Now that Christmas is over, most of the world is getting ready to put the Christmas tree away and pack it up until next December arrives; not Hispanic people though. A lot of Latinos still keep the party going, and it doesn’t end until Jan. 6, when Día de Reyes, or the Epiphany, arrives bearing more gifts. 

What is ‘Día de Reyes’?

On January 6, most Hispanic cultures celebrate El Dia De Reyes, or the Epiphany, in remembrance of the day when the Three Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem, arrived bearing their treasured gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for Baby Jesus.  

The three kings of orient

Guided by a shining star, the three Kings of the Orient, riding a camel, a horse and an elephant, rode off into the desert to find baby Jesus. They came from different parts of the world, one was from Africa, another was European, the last was Arabic. The gifts they gave Jesus were gold: for a king, myrrh: for a man, and incense: for a god. This story represents the first time that gentiles turned to Christianity. 

The tradition in Latin America

The celebration of Jan. 6 is a tradition that dates back to the evangelization of the New World in the time of the Conquistadors, and has carried on to actuality. In Mexico and other countries, it’s the Reyes Magos who deliver the toys, not Santa Claus. 

In Mexico

Just a few days earlier, the children write their letters to the Wise Men, or to their favorite Rey Mago: Melchor, Gaspar, or Baltasar, asking for the presents they would like to receive. They tie their letter to a balloon and let the balloon float into the sky. On the eve of January 6, they’re supposed to leave their shoes by a window, with a little bit of hay for the Kings’ animals to snack on. The next morning the hay is gone, and the shoes are stuffed and surrounded with toys. 

Another traditional aspect of Día de Reyes is eating Rosca with cafecito or atole. The host usually invites family and friends over to ‘cut the rosca’. Inside the bread, there are several miniature baby Jesus dolls, and the person or people who find a baby Jesus in their slice of bread, must make tamales and atole for everyone on February 2, ‘Día de la Candelaria.’ 

In Argentina

As opposed to Mexico, where children write their letters and send them to the Reyes Magos via a floating balloon, in Argentina, the little ones leave their letters inside their shoes on the eve of Jan. 6.

A different tradition in Bolivia

In this South American country, the tradition is not so much around gifts and toys. It’s more of a family affair. In Bolivia, it’s traditional for families to take their ‘pesebre’ figurines to church, and have them blessed by the priest. At the end of mass, several families gather around the church to exchange figurines or ornaments and sometimes they give gifts to families in need. 

In Puerto Rico

This Caribbean country has another way of celebrating too. In Puerto Rico, it’s traditional to see children running to parks to rip off patches of grass. At the end of the day on the eve of Epiphany day, they stash the grass in a shoe box that they put under the bed for the Kings to find. The grass is meant to feed the camel, horse, and elephant and the Kings take it in exchange for presents for the kids.

READ: The Rosca De Reyes Is A Mexican Classic But Do You Know The Story Behind It?