Everything You Need To Know About Traditional Christmas Posadas In Mexico
If you’re planning on spending Christmas in Mexico, you’ll likely come across the country’s holiday tradition of “posadas”.
But what exactly are posadas? Posadas are celebrations that begin on December 16 and end on Christmas Eve, and they’re a huge part of Mexican culture.
The main custom of the posadas is to recreate the 9-day journey that Mary and Joseph made to find a place to stay in Bethlehem. We do this in Mexico by “asking for a posada” (the word “posada” means “inn” or “shelter” in Spanish) with a traditional song that all Mexicans know by heart —we will tell you more about how we do it later.
These days, posadas are more about family and friends, food, and fun than anything else. If you are going to be in Mexico during the Christmas posadas season, expect to see lots of piñatas, sing and drink fruit punch.
Christmas Posadas Traditions
Like any other Mexican celebration, Christmas posadas are made up of different traditions, each with a different meaning and purpose.
These are the traditions you will see in a classic Christmas posada.
Asking for Posada
The main tradition and act of the Christmas posadas is “pedir posada” (asking for shelter). As we mentioned above, the posadas are the representation of the pilgrimage that Mary and Joseph made on their way to Bethlehem, when they went from house to house looking for a place to stay. All the people refused to help them because they didn’t have enough money, until a humble man opened the doors so they could stay in his stable.
In Mexico, we do this representation in the house where the posada is held. Some guests leave the house (to represent Mary and Joseph asking for lodging), and others stay inside (representing the house’s owners).
There’s a song (which we also call “letanía”) to ask for posada that most of us Mexicans know by heart, and it’s the one we recite to perform this act. Here you can see the lyrics of the song; save it so you can ask for posada.
This recreation has a happy ending, letting the pilgrims into the house to spend a nice time together.
In Mexico, piñatas are a colorful element that cannot be missed on birthdays, mainly for children.
The most fun part of the posadas is breaking a piñata with 7 spikes that represent the 7 deadly sins. The person who hits the piñata must be blindfolded, as this means that with the virtue of faith, they will be able to overcome the sins.
The piñata is always filled with fruits or candies that are a form of reward that God gives to the believers for defeating the sins.
“Aguinaldos” with Candies
At some point during the posada, the hosts will give the guests a small gift known as “aguinaldo”. These are basically small baskets or bags with candy, peanuts, cookies and other goodies.
The most traditional sweet given at the posadas is the “colación”, a type of hard candy, which, although almost nobody likes it, since it does not have much flavor and is difficult to eat, it’s very popular and is always present in these celebrations.
The aguinaldos represent the graces that God gave the faithful for his son Jesus’ birth.
Of course, it can’t be a Mexican celebration without a delicious drink.
At the posadas, the tradition is to serve a hot punch prepared with seasonal fruits such as guava, tejocote and plum, sweetened with piloncillo and sugar cane. Once served in the cup, each person can decide to add some “piquete”, which means adding a little alcohol. This is optional since it is not an alcoholic drink.
This punch is also known as “Christmas punch” (ponche navideño), because in Mexico we drink it during the whole Christmas season, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
In Mexico, we usually place a “Nacimiento” (nativity scene) that represents the scene of the arrival of baby Jesus. In the Nacimiento, you will see figurines of Mary and Joseph, as well as the three wise men, shepherds and field animals.
Usually, the Nacimiento is put up at the same time as the Christmas tree and the other Christmas decorations, but the figure of the baby Jesus is placed until December 25, after he is born.
If you go to a posada in a Mexican home, you will most likely see a Nacimiento somewhere. Some people go to great lengths and even put rivers, lakes and all kinds of details that turn it into an actual work of art.
Posadas are a cherished Christmas tradition in Mexico. Although nowadays, not all the people who host a posada keep the traditional customs and just have a party with a piñata, it is worth going and enjoying the fraternal and festive atmosphere that is lived in them. So, if you are invited to a posada, don’t miss the opportunity to go!
We look forward to having you in Barrio, the coolest hostel in downtown Mexico City so that you can enjoy the Christmas holidays to the fullest. Of course, we will have a lot of activities for you to live closely the different Mexican traditions of the season.
Stay tuned to our social networks to discover everything we will have prepared for this Christmas.
See you soon!