Las Posadas: A Christmas Tradition

“How would you feel if somebody shut the door in your face?”

Somi Nnoruka, an eighth-grade student at St. Ann Catholic School in Fayetteville asked this question while reflecting on what Las Posadas taught her.

“Mary and Joseph give us a way to think, we can ask these people, and if they say no, we can try again, and one day there will be somebody who says yes,” Somi said.   

The community of St. Ann celebrated Las Posadas Dec. 15. It’s a tradition this culturally diverse school has practiced for 15 years.  

Las Posadas, which originated in Mexico, translates to ‘The Inns’ and is a centuries-old tradition which commemorates Mary and Joseph’s quest for safe lodging in Bethlehem.

Celebrating the tradition is both a lesson in culture as well as an important lesson in hospitality, Spanish teacher Yadira Rodriguez said. The experience teaches students the strength of Mary and Joseph’s faith during an incredible trial.

“We read about it and talk about it in class, but when they do this, they realize more about how it felt,” she said.

In the full traditional celebration, homes throughout a neighborhood are picked as ‘inns’ for nine days from December 16 to December 24. For the first eight nights, Mary and Joseph and those walking with them are turned away. On the ninth night, Christmas Eve, they are welcomed into the designated home, where friends, family and neighbors celebrate the nativity.

At St. Ann School, the celebration lasts one day. Younger students dress up as Mary, Joseph, angels and manger animals while eighth graders walk alongside them as ‘prayer partners.’ The group visits multiple classrooms, or “inns,” and the students playing Joseph knock on door after door. Prayer partners read from a script that ultimately rejects the expecting couple. Time and again, the door is closed on Mary and Joseph, and their journey continues.

In the end, students, teachers, staff and parents reach the Parish Hall, where they are finally welcomed to stay in the stable. The welcome is celebrated with prayer, song and a great feast.

Las Posadas highlights a part of the nativity story that is sometimes lost in this busy season of celebration. This tradition teaches about the importance of hospitality and welcoming others, not with stress or fear but with a joyful heart; it is a lesson especially important this time of year.