The Mexican Christmas tradition of Las Posadas was alive and well yesterday in Denver’s West Side as a unique gathering of participants walked through the neighborhood knocking on residents doors in an reenactment of Joseph and Mary seeking shelter during their pilgrimage. The residents who answered their doors were more than surprised to see a donkey and several carolers at their front door.
The trek took the group from La Alma/Lincoln Park and proceeded north down Mariposa St.before concluding at the Casa Mayan Heritage Center located in the 9th Street Historic District on the Auraria Campus. They were greeted by Author Phil Goldstein who was written books on Denver’s history including one about the history of Denver’s West Side. Former Denver City Auditor Dennis Gallagher also welcomed the crowd.
Tom Smedley the grandson of William Smedley played Joseph. William Smedley was the first Denver Public Schools superintendent and has an elementary school named after him at 43rd and Shoeshone. Victoria Sandoval played Mary. Victoria is the grand daughter of the late Richard Castro a five term Colorado Representative. She was accompanied by Castro’s wife and her grandmother Virginia Castro.
They were led by a triple crown winning donkey named Jack.
The Las Posadas event was coordinated by Fran Aquire who had previously staged seven previous Las Posadas in North Denver. This was her second Las Posadas in West Denver. “It is so important that we keep this tradition alive in Denver”, said Aquire, “It is part of our heritage and culture and we need to pass it on to our children. I plan to keep on coordinating Las Posadas in Denver for years to come.”
Gregorio Alcaro talked about why Casa Mayan was chosen as the final stopping point for the pilgrimage’s reenactment. ” In Denver’s early days there were many homeless and hungry immigrants coming into the city and Casa Mayan served as a sanctuary for many of them providing food and shelter just as Joseph and Mary found at the end of their pilgrimage. Alcaro is the grandson of the original owners of the Casa Mayan restaurant.
The Tradition of Las Posadas…
From Hispanic Culture Online
Celebrating Las Posadas is a must when enjoying Christmas in Mexico or in the U.S. among Mexicans.
In Mexico Christmas starts shortly after la fiesta de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe or Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Las Posadas start on December 16th and end on December the 24th.
Children in Mexico recreate the pilgrimage that Mary and Joseph lived while searching for lodging in what is one of the most awaited Mexican traditions.
A Unique Mexican Christmas Tradition That Children Love
Las Posadas are trully a children’s tradition since it is them who participate in recreating the complete pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph in search for lodging.
Adult participants take turns in hosting the celebration each day. When all participants arrive at the designated home for the night, they sing the versos of Las Posadas, and villancicos typical Christmas carols- with hand made instruments like cans with small stones inside and corcholatas which are flattened bottle caps passed through a wire.
las-posadas-2-palace-aveSome people go to Mass every night during these nine days. In the U.S., the reenactors go to three homes until they find lodging at the third one where they pray, sing and end the night with a piñata party.
The Origin of Las Posadas
Las Posadas were born when Spanish Catholic missionaries asked Rome to give a special permission to celebrate nine Christmas Masses to represent the nine months of Marys pregnancy along with teachings about Jesus birth.
Catholic evangelists took advantage of the 9-day celebrations in the ancient Aztec tradition of Fiestas del Sol which ran from December 16th to the 24th. The festivity celebrated the virgin birth of the Aztec Sun god, Huitzilopchtli. The Spaniards made the dates of Fiestas del Sol coincide with the dates of what would become Las Posadas.
Each night after the celebration of Las Posadas there is a party that includes a “piñata” which the kids love to break to find nuts and candy inside. Music and dance also accompanies the celebration along typical foods like fritters and hot chocolate.
Did you know the first piñata was made of ceramic in the shape of a star, and was covered with papers of different colors? Each point of the star represented un pecado capital or one of the seven-deadly sins.
The idea of the piñata was to resist the temptation of the sins by hitting it hard therefore crushing the evil and being rewarded with gifts from heaven: the candy, fruits and nuts that come out of the piñata.
Pinatas take a special place in Hispanic culture. Pinatas are more than a simple decoration or game. If you want to know more about Mexican pinatas read this article.