Las Posadas (Mexican Christmas tradition)

Las Posadas is a traditional Mexican celebration leading up to Christmas. For nine days, from December 16th to December 24th, friends, neighbors, and families get together to reenact Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter in Bethlehem.7 Piñatas, villancicos (Christmas carols) and special foods form integral parts of this traditional calendar custom kept to this day.

Knoxville's first public Posadas was held on a warm night in December, 2011. A group led by Gisela Chaparro and Pedro García—dressed as Mary, Joseph—and several angels and shepherds, paraded down Gay Street in downtown Knoxville. Guitar music and singing attracted apartment building residents who joined the procession. Two locations turned the pilgrims away by singing the traditional verses in two parts sang in turns (translated song, see below.)8

Outside Singers
In the name of Heaven
I beg you for lodging,
for she cannot walk
my beloved wife.

Don't be inhuman;
Have mercy on us.
The God of the heavens
will reward you for it.

We are worn out
coming from Nazareth.
I am a carpenter,
Joseph by name.

I'm asking you for lodging
dear man of the house
Just for one night
for the Queen of Heaven.

My wife is Mary
She's the Queen of Heaven
and she's going to be the mother
of the Divine Word.

May God pay, gentle folks,
your charity,
and thus heaven heap
happiness upon you.

Inside Singers
This is not an inn
so keep going
I cannot open
you may be a rogue.

You can go on now
and don't bother us,
because if I become annoyed
I'll give you a thrashing.

I don't care about your name:
Let me sleep,
because I already told you
we shall not open up.

Well, if it's a queen
who solicits it,
why is it at night
that she travels so alone?

Are you Joseph?
Your wife is Mary?
Enter, pilgrims;
I did not recognize you.

Blessed is the house
that shelters this day
the pure Virgin,
the beautiful Mary.

A third and final location, the Emporium Building, location of HoLa's office, opened their doors to Mary and Jesus and their large entourage. The group in unison sang the final verses:

Enter, holy pilgrims,
receive this corner,
for though this dwelling is poor,
I offer it with all my heart.

Oh, graced pilgrim,
oh, most beautiful Mary.
I offer you my soul
so you may have lodging.

Humble pilgrims,
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
I give my soul for them
And my heart as well.

Let us sing with joy,
all bearing in mind
that Jesus, Joseph and Mary
honor us by having come.

One of the organizers, Jose Luis Santiago, a native of Mexico, explained this tradition. "In some homes they read the scriptures before the reenactment… Las Posadas remind us that we need to help one another. They have a special meaning for immigrants like us." The Hispanic Ministries Office of Knoxville's Catholic Dioceses and HoLa Hora Latina cosponsored the event.

Once in the building, Christmas songs attracted more neighbors. Children took turns hitting a colorful traditional piñata with seven cones and streamers. Breaking the piñata is a lesson for children, as "the seven cones are for the seven deadly sins"9 , Lourdes Garza said. She is the Director of Hispanic Ministries. Adults gathered around a table of homemade tamales and piping-hot champurrado. This is a traditional Mexican festive corn drink of atole and chocolate.10

Jose Luis said that in Mexico every child is excited about las Posadas. Families take turns to host the party at the end of the procession on different nights. Piñatas in Mexico are traditionally made of a clay pots, filled with fruit and candy. He remembers when a piñata fell on his head as a young boy. Everyone laughed and cheered! He got teased a lot, but thank goodness the piñata broke, and his head was OK!

"It is hard to celebrate all nine days because of the way Knoxville is structured. In Mexico, people are used to walking several blocks on the streets," he said, "but this city seems to be built for cars. Downtown has sidewalks, and seemed a perfect place." We hope this tradition continues, and many more people join the celebration next year!


Photo 33: Pedro García and Gisela Chaparro as Joseph and Mary at the first public Posadas procession, in Knoxville, 2011. Photo by Rafael Casco.


Photo 34: Participants sing traditional song, in a question-answer fashion, at the first posada stop. Joseph and Mary and their entourage of singers are turned away and must find another inn. Photo by Rafael Casco.


Photo 35: Mary and Joseph lead the procession. Photo by Coral Getino.


Photo 36: Second stop singing. They are also turned away. Photo by Coral Getino.


Photo 37: Organizer Jose Luis Santiago follows singers in Las Posadas procession. Photo by Coral Getino.


Photo 38: Mary and Joseph are welcome at the third and last stop, at the Emporium Center, in Knoxville. Photo by Rafael Casco.


Photo 39: Girl hits a traditional 7-cone piñata. The piñata was first created as a religious symbol. The cones represent the 7 capital sins. Photo by Rafael Casco.


Photo 40: Singing villancicos (Christmas carols) at Las Posadas. Photo by Rafael Casco.


Photo 41: Girl showing tamal and champurrado. Photo by Rafael Casco.

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