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The Coronavirus Has Changed Our Holiday Plans But Posadas Are Adapting To The ‘Nueva Normal’

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, you know just how special these parties are.

Obviously, 2020 is totally different. The Coronavirus pandemic has completely changed our typical holiday plans and forced us to rethink our annual traditions. In some places, such as Mexico City, posadas are explicitly banned out of the risk that they’ll increase COVID-19 infections.

But from going digital to keeping it in the home, families are adopting to the new normal and helping keep the tradition alive.

Posadas are a huge part of the holiday season, but this year they’re canceled.

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.

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

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.

Posadas are a celebration of the novenario before Christmas.

‘Novenario’ means nine days, which means that posadas take place during the nine days before Christmas Eve. The nine 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’.

Posadas in Mexico began as a way for the Spaniards to force Indigenous people to celebrate Christmas.

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.

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.

Piñatas are a quintessential part of posadas.

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.

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

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.

Obviously, this year all of that will look different. Many organizations that typically host large posada events are now turning to the Internet to host virtual posasdas. And families are planning on using Zoom and other webcam services to stay in touch with families amid the holidays.

How do you plan on celebrating this year?

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