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A manifestation of popular piety in Mexican and Mexican-American communities in the U.S., celebrated between December 16 and Christmas Eve, Las Posadas comprise a festive procession whereby participants go from home to home singing carols, reenacting the journey of Mary and Joseph in search for lodging (posada ). Participants play the various roles of Joseph and Mary, innkeepers, choir, and onlookers. At the first two homes, the participants are rejected, but at the third home, they enter and the fiesta of welcome begins. At the final house, the choir sings the same song of petition, but this time the innkeepers welcome them singing an additional verse of welcome. Each evening ends in a celebration, the final night usually a large fiesta hosted at the local parish church. The celebration generally consists of prayers and singing with refreshments of hot chocolate and sweet bread (pan dulce ) for everyone. Blindedfolded children also attempt to hit a suspended, paper maché piñata, usually in the form of a star or animal and filled with candies that are released when the piñata breaks.

One tradition attributes the origins of Las Posadas to Spaniard Brother Pedro de San José Bentacur, a Third-Order Franciscan who settled in Guatemala. Historically, Spanish missionaries used Las Posadas as a catechetical device for explaining the Christmas story to the indigenous people. Among Mexican-American communities, the celebration of Las Posadas reminds immigrant families of their own journeys and experiences of rejection and welcome.

Bibliography: m. arias, m. r. francis, and a. j. pÉrezrodriguez, La Navidad Hispana at Home and at Church (Chicago 2000). s. brandes, "The Posadas in Tzinzuntzan: Structure and Sentiment in a Mexican Christmas Festival," American Folklore 96 (1983) 259280. a. pÉrez, Popular Catholicism: A Hispanic Perspective (Washington, D.C. 1988). s. verti, El libro clasico de la Navidad en Mexico: costumbres y tradiciones de nuestro pueblo (Mexico 1998). Faith Expressions of Hispanics in the Southwest, rev. ed. (San Antonio 1990).

[t. torres]

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