What are Posadas? A Tradition of Mexico, Hispanics in the USA and Latin Ameria - Las Posadas Explained with a Free Recipe!

What are posadas?

The word posada means inn or lodging, and traditionally posadas are a celebration of the Christmas story. They take place on nine nights from December 16 to 24 and commemorate the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph’s search for a place to stay where Jesus could be born. 

Latin America, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and by Hispanics in the United States. Posadas often feature hot food and drinks, sweets, music, and piñatas.

Throughout Latin America, churches and communities still celebrate these festivities with their traditional, religious elements. Today sometimes any party held around Christmas is called a posada. Schools often host posadas as end-of-the-year parties for students and teachers.

Traditionally, las Posadas occur between 8-10 pm each night beginning on December 16th and are truly a community affair. A re-enactment in song, families in a neighborhood each host the Posada at their home on one of the nine nights, playing the role of the los hosteleros or innkeepers. Costumed children and adults are los peregrinos, who have to request lodging by going from casa a casa (literally from house to house, this usually involves 3-4 homes) singing “Villancicos para Pedir Posadas” (“Searching for an Inn” carols), carrying small candles in their hands. Participants either carry statuettes of or may be costumed as Joseph, leading a donkey on which Mary is riding, followed by an assortment of shepherds, angels, and animals, with a star either at the beginning or the end of the procession.
As the group travels from home to home, they ask for lodging by singing the appropriate lines of the villancico. At each participating household, the residents (los hosteleros), respond by refusing lodging, with the chorus going back and forth between the two groups. When the Pilgrims reach the designated site for that night’s party, the chorus changes to “Entren Santos Peregrinos” (“Enter Holy Pilgrims”) as Mary and Joseph are finally recognized and allowed to enter. Once the “innkeepers” let them in their home, the group of traveling guests kneels around the Nativity scene and the festivities begin, marked, as in all things Mexican, by song, dance and an opportunity for each household to outdo that of its neighbors.

How did posadas originate?

Posadas in Mexico began as a way for the Spaniards to teach native people about Christmas. During the nine days leading up to Christmas Day, masses would include representations of Mary and Joseph. Following mass was a party where people were blindfolded before hitting a piñata with a stick, a representation of faith defeating temptation with the help of virtue. The fruits and sweets that poured out of the piñata represented the joys of union with God.

In time, posadas started to be held in neighborhoods and people’s homes, becoming a more familiar and tightly-knit occasion, as well as preparation for Christmas. At the beginning of a posada, people are divided in two groups, the ones “outside” representing Mary and Joseph, and the ones “inside” representing innkeepers. Then everyone sings the posada litany together, re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s search, going back and forth until they are finally “admitted” to an inn. After this tradition, the party proper starts. Posadas have spread to other countries — such as Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela; the celebrations vary by location.

RECIPE Mexican Christmas Fruit Punch/Ponche de Navidad
(Serves 12-15)
1 gallon boiling water
15 tejocotes, cut in half (or Asia pears)
2 small pears, cut bite-sized
1 cup raisins
1 cup prunes
8 tamarind pods, peeled and seeded, or 6 tablespoons tamarind paste
(if unavailable substitutes include: lemon or lime juice, or balsamic vinegar or Worchester Sauce) 
3½ oz. dry hibiscus
6 pieces sugar cane, cut in quarters lengthwise (available in Latino markets including Casa Lucas)
one cone piloncillo or dark brown sugar (optional, for a sweeter ponche)
4 small yellow apples, chopped bite-sized
6 guavas, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
6 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
1 star anise
2 oranges, sliced and cut in half
Wash all fruits and cut as required. In a large pot, boil water and add tamarind, hibiscus, star anise, cloves, piloncilli (if using) and cinnamon sticks. Boil on high for 10-15 minutes (if using piloncillo, boil until it is almost completely dissoolved), strain mixture to remove any remain of flowers, spices or tamarind. Once strained, add all cut fruits, cook 5 minutes and add dry fruits, and sugar cane. Cook for additional 20 minutes. Serve in a mug or a clay cup, garnished with a sugar cane stick intended to be used as a spoon, and for eating the fruits.
The consistency can be controlled by the amount of water you use and cooking time. Less water+longer cooking time= somewhat thicker ponche. If you prefer a thinner beverage, add more water. Serve warm. Decorate with a half a slice of orange. Optional: add a splash of rum, cane spirit (aguardiente), brandy or event tequila! When reheating ponche, you may want to thin with a little water. Keep refrigerated in an air-tight container, will last for at least a week. I like to boil down my leftover ponche until it forms a syrup and serve (with fruit and all) cold spooned over Greek yogurt!
Source: https://mymissiontastesofsf.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/las-posadas-contraband-fruit-and-warm-mexican-christmas-punch-wrecipe/