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Las Posadas: A Hispanic Tradition

The story of Christ’s birth is prefaced by the search for Mary to bear the Christ Child. Posada is Spanish for “inn” or “lodging”. We all know the story of how Joseph and Mary searched in vain among the Inns of Bethlehem, being turned away from all they approached. Finally, with the birth imminent, they found lodging, not at an Inn…but in the stable along with the farm animals.

I sometimes wonder about the fate of the owner of the Inn….did he ever realize the importance of the events that took place that fateful night? I suppose we will never know, and it has little to do with the story.

Although the tradition of Las Posadas originated in Spain, Catholic missionaries brought the tradition of Las Posadas to Mexico in the 1500s as a way of teaching about the birth of Christ. It’s been a yearly celebration throughout Mexico and, more recently, in various cities in the U.S. The tradition commemorates Mary and Joseph’s difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of a warm place to stay the night. (Posadas is Spanish for “lodgings “).

In Mexico, the celebration begins on December 16 and ends nine days later, on December 24, Las Posadas commemorates the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy. Each night, one family agrees to house the pilgrims.

Las Posadas is celebrated in cities and towns across Mexico. Each evening during the festival, a small child dressed as an angel leads a procession through the streets of the town. The procession is primarily made up of children dressed in silver and gold robes carrying lit candles and images of Mary and Joseph riding a donkey. Adults, including musicians, follow the procession, which visits selected homes and asks for lodging for Joseph and Mary. Traditionally, the procession is always refused lodging, though the hosts often provide refreshments. At each stop, passages of scripture are read and Christmas carols are sung.

The group representing the Holy Family stands outside a series of houses, singing songs, asking for lodging. They are refused time and again until the group reaches the designated house. Finally, the travelers are permitted to enter. Prayer and song continue in the home, and festive foods are shared. The evening ends with a piñata in the shape of star.

The tradition continues each evening with a different house as the chosen Posadas. The last night—Christmas Eve—usually features a midnight Mass. The nine days of Las Posadas is more than just a feel-good tradition: It deepens faith and strengthens ties within the community at a holy time.


In the U.S., you will find many cities having a one day celebration, such as Los Angeles, San Antonio, Morrison, Co, St Louis.