The Mexican Posadas

Nowadays, the end of the year is filled with celebrations in Mexico, so many that Mexicans think of it as one long celebration known by everyone as Guadalupe-Reyes marathon. Among all of them, usually the Posadas are the most crowded ones because the

When the Nahua (Aztec) Empire was conquered in 1531, the Spaniards inherited a vast territory that comprised from the central lowlands in México to the area that today we know as Nicaragua, including, of course, a great number of peoples that constituted kingdoms, mostly Nahua tribute providers. When the military defeat was completed, however, in order to include so much people in the Spanish Empire metropolitan expansion a less violent and more compelling strategy was needed.

In fact, at the end of the 16th century friars in the New World realized that theater could be a very persuasive method in the evangelization process, for which Franciscan, Jesuit and Augustine orders, altogether known as the Mendicant Orders, started an enormous effort by learning the local languages so they could easily westernize the indigenous people while teaching them law, text translation, civil organization and arts.

At the end of the 16th century, Augustine friar Diego de Soria had this idea of celebrating nine masses, one each day before Christmas, attempting to overshadow the excitement that a pagan celebration was causing by then (probably dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, a sun deity). He asked the Pope for his authorization so he could theatrically represent the Biblical tale of Jesus Christ birth in the church atrium, aided by locals as actors.

These representations became popular and known as Aguinaldo (Christmas Bonus) Masses. We know them today simply as Posadas (Inns) and they are celebrated throughout Mexico from December 16th thru the 24th. Traditionally before the play there is a lent procession dedicated to Virgin Mary, after the play there is a festival with music, dances, food and drinks to which everybody is welcomed with the famous Mexican hospitality.

Throughout the years, this celebration has acquired many elements that are now essential to it, like the piñata (originally from China) in the shape of a seven-rays star, each representing seven capital sins and its destruction, representing the victory of good over evil. Traditional food varies from area to area but almost every one has tamales as a main course. One cannot miss the fruit punch either, made from sugar cane, guava and many other local fruits and served with or without rum.

Above all, a Posada is a colorful and fun family fiesta that you can’t miss if you happen to be in Mexico during December.