Friday, December 16, 2022

Yuletide - Las Posadas 2022

¡Entren santos peregrinos!
¡Reciban éste rincón!
Que aunque es pobre la morada
¡Se las doy de corazón!
¡Cantemos con alegría!
¡Todos al considerar!
¡Que Jesús, José y María
nos vinieron hoy a honrar!

Come in holy pilgrims!
Receive this corner!
Because, even though the place is poor
I offer it to you from my heart!
Let's sing it with joy!
Everyone at the thought!
That Jesus, Joseph, and Mary
Came to honor us today!

In Latin American and Hispanic Christianity, today marks the beginning of Las Posadas, a novenario, or nine day period of prayer and procession, reflecting on the journey of Joseph and Mary through Bethlehem looking for shelter.  The nine day period leading up to Christmas Day is also meant to reflect on the nine months Mary carried the Messiah.  

Las Posadas derives from the Spanish word posada, meaning lodging or accommodation, here referring to the inn in the Nativity story.  Celebration of this 400 year tradition starts with two actors dressing as Mary and Joseph, leading a procession to certain houses designated as inns, usually those at the end of a street.  The procession is headed by a leader carrying a luminaria and can often contain other players of the Nativity story (angels, shepherds, etc.).  The procession makes its way from house to house, singing carols in hopes to have a place to stay.  They are initially met with "no posada," no room, until the end of the street.  There, the residents of the houses respond by singing a song, recognizing Mary and Joseph, and allowing the procession to enter.  The procession comes in and kneels to pray before a Nativity scene.  At the end of each night, carols are sung, children break open a star shaped piñata, and everyone sits for a feast.  This is repeated throughout the nine day period, with a new house each night accepting them in for the festivities.

My introduction to Las Posadas came through The Three Caballeros.  That film was part of Disney's Good Neighbor program, an extension of the United States' government's policy at the time, designed to highlight the relationship with South America.  As a result, The Three Caballeros and its sister production, Saludos Amigos, are both a mixture of travelogue, history lesson, art appreciation, and animation.  In The Three Caballeros, both Jose Carioca and Panchito Pistoles, reveal the best aspects of their countries, Brazil and Mexico, respectively.  Panchito includes a description of Las Posadas, complete with beautiful Mary Blair, small world-esque paintings to accompany the story.  The image above includes examples of this art.

That film introduced me to the beauty of this celebration.  A real visual and tactile experience of what Mary and Joseph would have experienced that cold night.  Traveling from inn to inn looking for someplace for shelter, some place for refuge.  Repeatedly encountering doors slammed in their face.  "No room."  "No posada."

Another reminder that our sanitized version of the Christmas story leaves much to be desired.  We revere that night so much (and rightly so), that we forget it was not the safe, pleasant pageant we've made it.  It wasn't a silent night.  It wasn't likely a midnight clear.  It was cold, it was noisy, it was smelly, it was dark.  For Mary and Joseph that night held fear and trepidation.  Would they find shelter?  Would there be a safe place for Mary to bear this child?  When the only place they were offered was a stable, would it be warm enough?  Would it be enough?

It also reminds us of what our response is to be.  We are to make room for the Savior.  In doing so, we are to make room for his people.  Making room for the Savior on that first Christmas night meant providing shelter for his mom and dad.  Meeting this family in need of refuge and allowing them in.  Allowing dirty shepherds into the space to come and see him.  

It means caring for the stranger.

It means caring for the refugee.

It means treating each person with the kindness we would afford him, because they are made in his image.

It means making room.

I pray this Christmas season you make room for those in need around you.  There is a lot of need this year.  From those families still separated at the border, to those suffering from compounded depression, to those wondering where there next paycheck will come from in this uncertain year, and to those grieving loss from this pandemic.  The Christmas story is messy in order to remind us that regardless of the humble circumstances, even though our place is poor, God still stepped down into it.  And we are to do the same.

¡Entren santos peregrinos!

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