Growing up in Mexico, December was always my favorite month. Besides being a birthday marathon for my family, we also had the posadas. During the nine days before Christmas, from the 16th to the 24th of December, people celebrate the holidays with these traditional parties. In Catholic terms, they consist of a Rosary novena that represents the nine-day journey of the Holy Family from Galilee to Bethlehem as well as the nine months Jesus spent in Mary’s womb.
The word “posada” means inn or shelter, a place to spend the night. During a posada, people recreate Joseph and Mary’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem by carrying their images (figures from the Nativity scene in our case) to lead a candlelit singing procession of guests. What is sung is a script-like song where the people outside will play the role of Joseph and Mary asking for shelter and the people inside the house will play as the innkeeper. After the outsiders have done some convincing, the host will eventually let them in and everybody will dance in contentment.
An important part of these celebrations are the piñatas. You’re probably familiar with the cartoon character ones kids break on their birthdays, but for the posadas the traditional shape is the seven-point star. Each point represents one of the capital sins. The piñata is broken with a stick that symbolizes God’s strength. After trial and error and blindfolded to represent the blind faith in God, somebody will break it letting the candy and/or fruit come out of it symbolizing the blessings that go to all the participants after overcoming sin.
We wouldn’t be Mexican without delicious food to celebrate with. Around this time of the year some of the traditional recipes include romeritos with shrimp cakes (a kind of Mexican greens cooked in mole), bacalao (cod), turkey, apple salad and ponche (a delicious tea-like fruit beverage). In our posada, we would give out little baskets filled with colaciones, small colored sugar candy, as favors.
May December bring lots of joy to you and your family! ¡Felices fiestas!