Welcoming the Stranger: Las Posadas

Posted by Rafael Lopez on Dec 16, 2020 5:00:33 PM
Rafael Lopez

Lopez Las Posadas English title

The Catholic faith has many traditions that are beautiful and deep, full of teaching and evangelization. I was lucky enough to be born and raised in Mexico, and there I learned about my faith through such traditions. For example, Las Posadas is a celebration that has lots to teach us about the Catholic faith. The celebrations last nine days, starting on December 16 and running until Christmas Eve—this way a novena is prayed. During these nine days, there is a procession from the town’s parish to a street where a manger is set up. A leader from each street organizes all the people that live on that street, and everyone works together to set up the manger, cook the food, decorate the street, make the piñatas, and buy candy for all the kids in town. The leader also chooses a boy and a girl to dress as Joseph and Mary, and another boy or girl to be an angel. Mary rides on a donkey led by Joseph from the parish to the manger, followed by all the town kids dressed as shepherds. The parish priest leads the Rosary, songs, and rituals, with the whole town following. Las Posadas serves as spiritual exercises in preparation for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The procession is then followed by celebration, as the kids break piñatas, sing songs, and play games.  

Each day of Las Posadas has a lesson to teach us because it is dedicated to a special virtue: generosity, humility, charity, courage, detachment, purity, justice, joy, and trust. Each one of them is a true feast. Mary and Joseph displayed all of these virtues: when they knew they were going to be the Mother and the guardian of the Word of God Incarnate, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, they could have demanded anything from anyone. Instead, they went around begging for a place to stay. Their example teaches us humility. To see the Queen of Heaven and her blessed spouse go knocking from door to door shows that they were humble enough to believe in God’s providence, and that God prefers the humble over the proud.

Las Posadas also teaches us about hospitality. As we know, Mary was about to give birth to Jesus, but she and Joseph could not find a place to spend the night. No one would welcome them into their house, and there was no place for them in the local inns. This taught me to feel how they must have felt when no one opened the door to them. This still happens today: there are many people in desperate need to leave their country of origin who are not welcomed in a country that is not theirs. They are fleeing violence, poverty, and danger and trying to find a new life in another country, but the doors are shut in their faces; they are forgotten, marginalized, and treated with disrespect. They are stripped of their dignity, often forced to do jobs that no one else wants to do for much less money than they deserve. Just like the Holy Family needed help 2,000 years ago, there are people today who need our help and we need to open the doors of our hearts and let them in. There are people in our society who need our charity and our hospitality to have a better life.

Unfortunately, this year’s celebration of the Posadas might be very different with the pandemic’s restrictions, but we can still pray the Holy Rosary with our families at home and ask families and friends to join via online platforms and/or other devices’ applications. Another good idea to celebrate this year under our current situation is by donating food, clothes, and other goods to our local parishes and/or other community service agencies that help the least privileged in our communities.

When I was child I did not understand the true importance of Las Posadas. Now I know that they are more than an excuse to get together, share food, and have fun. Las Posadas taught me to share what I have with those who are less privileged and to be more hospitable and open to those who are in need.

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Featured image: Dr. Paul Mori, courtesy of Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation; CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0.

Topics: devotional prayer, Hispanic Catholicism, Advent, Las Posadas, processions

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The McGrath Institute Blog helps Catholics live and hand on their faith in Jesus Christ, especially in the family, home and parish, and cultivates and inspires everyday leaders to live out the fullness and richness of their faith in the simple, little ways that make up Church life.

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