Las Posadas is a moving celebration


POSTED: Friday, December 12, 2008

Martha Sanchez revels in the pageantry and spirituality that Las Posadas celebrations bring in her native Mexico. “;My fondest memories are of the smells, sounds and just the whole religious experience. Christmas is not as commercialized as it is here,”; said Sanchez, who organized past Las Posadas events in Hawaii.






        Church service: 5:30 p.m. Saturday


Place: St. Andrews Cathedral, with procession to follow to Mission Houses Museum


Admission: Service is free; $6 for museum party. Canned goods and nonperishable items also will be collected for the Hawaii Foodbank.


Call: 531-0481, ext. 707



Las Posadas, celebrated in Latin America, is a traditional nine-day Christmas celebration from Dec. 16 to Christmas Eve that symbolizes the trials that Mary and Joseph may have encountered before finding a place where Jesus could be born.

A Las Posadas event this weekend provides a glimpse of the tradition. Activities begin with a service at St. Andrew's Cathedral, followed by a candlelit procession through the downtown area along King Street. The procession, re-enacting the journey of Joseph and Mary seeking shelter in Bethlehem, ends at Mission Houses Museum, where a celebration of music, traditional Latin refreshments and the breaking of pinata are part of the fun.

Sanchez, who runs Mercado de la Raza, the local Latin American grocery store, says the pinata is a one of her favorite memories. “;We didn't put candy inside,”; she recalled. “;We had lots of fruit, tangerines, sweet limes and peanuts and sugar cane. Sometimes we had whistles for Christmas.”;

Pinatas are in fact especially significant to Las Posadas.

“;Only recently did I learn the pinata is symbolic of the seven major sins,”; said Juan DeVilbiss-Munoz of Mariachi del Pacifico, which will provide the music for the event. “;It is supposed to have seven cones or points (shaped like a star) that can hit us in the face. We assault the evasive, swinging pinata blindfolded as a symbolic fight against these sins. Then, when we finally break the pinata, the fruits of a good life come falling down to us.”;

Las Posadas is personally important to DeVilbiss-Munoz for both cultural and religious reasons. “;Hispanic gatherings tend to include all ages, and to me that's a feeling that reminds me of Old Mexico—people rubbing shoulders, accessible, well-dressed and happy to celebrate according to tradition.

“;On a deeper personal level, I also enjoy (following) ... the rituals of my Christian faith and dogma. The procession carries a sense of devotion and also a feeling of contrition, because we often reject what is best for us,”; he said, referring to the many ways Jesus faced rejection.

During traditional posadas, both adults and children walk from house to house singing a traditional song requesting lodging (posada). The first two homeowners refuse. When the group reaches the third house—which represents the place where Mary and Joseph are provided shelter—they are welcomed by hosts acting as innkeepers. The home even displays a nativity scene that is sometimes live.

Neighborhoods in Latin America schedule their posadas with each other, according to Jose Villa, an event organizer. “;People like to add up the amount of posadas they attend,”; he said.

“;A couple years ago, we did this at the Academy of Arts. People brought the kids, came with baby carriages—it really turned out to be a family activity. We also picked up people along the way, as we were retracing the steps of Joseph and Mary, the reason for the season.”;