Las Posadas: Advent, Tradition, & Abuela’s Hot Chocolate 

by Advent and Christmas, History of the Church

Las Posadas is an Advent tradition begun by Hispanic Catholics in the 16th century. Las Posadas means “the Inns,” and like a typical novena lasting nine days, the celebration spans the nine days before Christmas. 

Though it does involve knocking on doors and treats, this is not like trick-or-treating at your neighbors or strangers’ houses on Halloween. It’s much more exciting, in my opinion. 

Different communities celebrate it slightly differently, so I asked others for their own Las Posadas experience—and learned to pronounce it correctly!

My sister-in-law, Natalie Philipp, described her experience participating in Las Posadas fondly. She said visiting family in Mexico with family during the Christmas season, including Las Posadas, was a lot of fun.

“It’s a big production!” she explained. Natalie listed what’s involved during the evening: sharing a meal, sometimes goodie bags, prayer time, and songs. The whole nine days are a very well-planned event where a large group of people gather at a different hosts’ home each night. This happens between December 16-24. 

Communities who celebrate Las Posadas commemorate Saints Joseph and Mary seeking a place to stay for the birth of Jesus Christ as read in the Book of Luke, chapter 2: 

Now it happened that at this time Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be made of the whole inhabited world.

This census — the first — took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee for Judaea, to David’s town called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

Now it happened that, while they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the living-space [inn].

My friend Marci Houle also celebrated this tradition in Texas with her parish. It’s tradition, she recounts, to have a Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. In high school, she was Mary while her community walked around their parish and knocked on the hall three times before being allowed entry. In communities where this is a more popular tradition, she mentioned, people travel to two different houses asking for shelter before being allowed into the third house.

She also noted that family is incredibly important in Hispanic culture so they tend to live close to each other or in close-knit smaller communities. This means events such as Las Posadas are a “must-do for the sake of tradition” no matter how tiring or involved.

Both ladies included that hot chocolate is important!

“Abuelita’s Hot Chocolate is imperative,” Marci elaborates. Of course, the prayer, songs, community, and Scripture is important, but she emphasized the hot chocolate saying, “If it’s not there, it’s not Las Posadas.”

If you’re interested, this is a bright yellow package with a grandmother available on Amazon or at stores such as Walmart. There are spices in it, but it is not spicy unless you add chili powder yourself, which I would recommend trying at least once. 

Maybe this year you can incorporate this tradition with some friends or family to help make your Advent season even more special. It is a tradition that strengthens family and faith during this beloved Advent season. You can learn more about this tradition by finding songs and books, such as The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola.

The Night of Las Posadas – Tomie dePaola

Las Posadas Prayer

As we welcome these travellers in to our home . . .
We remember all those who are
travelling tonight
We remember all those who are
looking for rest and shelter tonight
We remember all those who care
for and comfort those in need
May God bless us and all those we love as we
journey with Mary and Joseph towards
celebrating the birth of Jesus at Christmas.

(Diocese of York)

Thanks, Natalie and Marci, for taking the time to share your experiences!

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