Visitors sing in the Posada
The entire house smells like cinnamon and baked apples that just remind you of Christmas at home. The dreary cold outside makes the sparkling Christmas tree lights even more welcoming.

It’s Christmas time and all around the world, people are warming up their hot chocolate, hot apple cider, or simply escaping the cold all together to visit a warm beach in the Mexican Caribbean. It’s no different in Mexico.

While most celebrations in Mexico mirror those in the United States, there are several special traditions centered on Christmas that are observed exclusively in Mexico. Of the many traditions observed, one that is prominent is the Posada.

Kids breaking the traditional piñataStarting on the 16th of December through December 24th, the Posada is a religious observance based on the night months that Maria carried Jesus in her womb. The Posadas re-enact Mary and Joseph’s difficult, cold journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

The word “Posada” means “lodging” in Spanish.

Every night for nine nights, the neighborhood children and adults act as pilgrims who request lodging—posada—by going house to house singing a traditional song. At each house, the resident refuses lodging until the weary travelers reach the designated host house, where Mary and Joseph are finally allowed to enter.

The traditional song says:

En el nombre del Cielo
os pido posada,
pues no puede andar
mi esposa amada.

 

In the name of Heaven
I ask you for lodging,
because She cannot walk,
my beloved wife.

 

The group inside answers, also singing,

 

Aquí no es mesón;
sigan adelante.
Yo no puedo abrir,
no sea algún tunante.

 

This is no inn,
keep on going.
I won't open the door,
in case you are a truant.

The wary travelers continue this until the innkeepers realize who they are and decide to help them.

When the innkeepers decide to let the pilgrims enter, they sing:

Entren, Santos Peregrinos,
reciban este rincón;
no de esta pobre morada,
si no de mi corazón.

 

Enter, Holy Pilgrims,
accept this dwelling;
not of this humble house,
but of my heart.

The delicious Mexican poncheOnce the pilgrims are given shelter, the guests are offered hot ponche—a traditional hot drink made with fruit, nuts and cinnamon; fried rosette cookies known as bunuelos, and steaming hot tamales. The last posada, held on December 24th, is followed by a bigger celebration and midnight mass.

 

Many small towns throughout the country continue to celebrate this tradition, although most cities in Mexico no longer do the 9 days of Posadas and just hold one posada and the traditional Christmas Eve dinner.

History of the Posadas

These—like many things in Mexico—are a combination originating from Spain and incorporating Aztec traditions. The Posada tradition comes from the Colonial period when the conquistadors arrived to the New Spain. However, historical data states that the Aztecs also celebrated the arrival of the god Huitzilopochtli between the 7th and 26th of December.

While most of the Mexican Christmas traditions are firmly based on the birth of Christ, the celebrations coincide with the Aztec’s ancient worship of the sun. The Aztecs celebrated the God of the Sun and plead for his return during the nine darkest days of winter. The Catholic priests incorporated the Spanish religious festivities with the Aztec and Mayan traditions.

This holiday season, whether you’re spending your Christmas around the fire place sipping hot cider or in front of a sunny Mexico beach sipping a margarita, one thing is true—Christmas is here.

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About the Author

pamela Pamela Acosta is a Mexican travel photographer and writer for Yucatan Holidays. She is seeking to travel throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, Riviera Maya & Cancun in an attempt to capture beauty and wonder in words & pixels. Follow Pamela on Twitter.

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COMMENTS

7 Responses to “Celebrating Christmas the Mexican Way”

  1. Mark

    Great post Pamela! I learned tons from reading your article…very interesting! Great job! Feliz Navidad to you and Jorge!

    Reply
  2. Craig Zabransky

    I recall learning about the posada tradition when calling DF home. Plus, someone from the office always had a posada party – good times.

    stay adventurous, Craig

    Reply

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