| "A Balloon In Cactus"
Las Posadas begins on December 16th and continues each night through
Christmas eve. On evenings during the Posada season, people gather
to pray before a "nacimiento" -- a Nativity scene.
that the commercialization of Christmas
has totally taken over Mexico,
but it seems that Santa and Rudolph might be slowly gaining over the
Holy Family and the Three Kings.
Once upon a time, there were precious few images of Santa Claus in
Gene Autry's rendition of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Raindeer" was not
heard blaring over store loudspeakers, drowning out "Ave Maria," and
"The Little Drummer Boy." Mexican children would leave a shoe under
their bed praying for a holiday treat like a small toy or a candy,
from the Three Kings on January 6th, Three Kings Day.
Now, it could seem that greed might be casting its shadow over the
story of Bethlehem, except for one very important thing: Las Posadas
is still observed in Mexico.
That cannot be underestimated, nor can it be commercialized.
Legend has it that Las Posadas came to Mexico
via the Spanish missionaries, as a sure-fire, very dramatic way to
impress the birth of Christ upon the Mexican people, targeted for
conversion. No matter how it arrived, the beloved tradition of Las
Posadas is an experience so profound, so spiritually uplifting, that
it's a privilege to take part in, even to merely observe, the honored
Posadas begins on December 16th and continues each night through Christmas
eve. On evenings during the Posada season, people gather to pray before
a "nacimiento" -- a Nativity scene.
They form a candlelight procession, usually led by a priest, with
guitar-strumming musicians, and children portraying Mary and Joseph;
often "Mary" is riding a burro. The procession continues down a selected
street of private casitas before which various Nativity scenes are
depicted with living, motionless people, as still as statues, barely
breathing, honored to have been chosen.
Christmas carols (villancicos) are sung by all in the procession,
and the songs ask for "posada" or shelter at the "inn." At each doorway,
they are turned away, and move on to another house, another door,
another rejection. This continues until Christmas eve, when at last
"Mary and Joseph" are not turned away, but are welcomed into the Inn.
After a rosary is said by all, the Christ child, usually a life-size
doll and occasionally a real baby, is placed on a bed of straw in
After Midnight Mass, there's a fiesta with music, hot fruit punch,
sugar cane, oranges, and candy. Pinatas are expertly smashed by happy
children who scramble for the sweets which rain down upon them on
this holiest of nights, "Noche Buena."
Perhaps the Christmas tree has replaced the traditional nativity scenes
in many Mexican homes, and Santa and Rudolph can be found in the stores
today, but most Mexicans still hear "Campana Sobre Campana," -- Bells
over Bethlehem -- and, for another year, Mexico
will know the true spirit of Christmas.
"A Balloon In Cactus"
December 1, 2004 column
Christmas in Texas