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November 9, 2017

Celebrating a posada — Welcoming Jesus as a strong community

Las Posadas


As we prepare our hearts during Advent for the birth of Christ, we gather with family and friends. It is a time for traditions and celebrating, for community and coming together.

Since it is a tradition that can easily be incorporated into any community, the posadas is an excellent way to unite diverse assemblies. Whether you have a primarily English-speaking congregation with a small or growing Hispanic community, an established bilingual community or a mostly Spanish-speaking parish, celebrating a posada can be a wonderful way to bring your community together.

What is a posada?

Mary and Joseph

A posada is one of the most cherished Christmas traditions that has been celebrated among families in Mexico and other Latin American countries for hundreds of years. During this novena (nine days of preparing our hearts to welcome Jesus into the world), the community gathers every night, from December 16 to December 24.

The literal translation for the Spanish word posada is “inn” or “lodging.” Celebrating a posada gives families and communities an opportunity to pray and share their faith using dramatic representations. The tradition commemorates Mary and Joseph’s journey in search of a room on the night baby Jesus was born; an important part of the program is the communal reenactment of this journey. Identifying ourselves as Mary and Joseph on their pilgrimage to Bethlehem helps us to empathize with pilgrims, refugees and those seeking comfort, which seems especially timely nowadays.

How to organize a posada

Invite community members and friends to celebrate a posada. You can hold a posada each night of the novena or just one night. Let them know this is an adaptation for a church setting and that this is the perfect time to invite more friends, introduce it to new generations and family members that speak English and/or Spanish.

The program can start in the church or in another venue with a song and a prayer. OCP’s new bilingual collection Las Posadas: Journeying Together toward Christmas, is a great resource for any community—whether this is your first posada or your twenty-first. The assembly book—available in print or eBook format—includes an introduction, a Scripture passage, an opening prayer, a reflection, prayers of the faithful and songs for each night of the novena. With recordings of all 15 songs, the CD and MP3 album are excellent ways for participants to learn the music.

There are numerous songs that can empower the message and deepen reflection for each night. In addition to the songs and hymns found in Las Posadas (many of which are bilingual), there are other hymns, songs and psalms that can be sung as a community. But perhaps the most festive and traditional song is “Las Posadas,” when the whole community participates in the recreation of the pilgrimage.

How to sing the traditional posadas song


To sing the “Las Posadas” song and perform the reenactment, divide the group in two, explaining that this song is a dialogue between the two groups and people can sing in English or Spanish. One half represents Joseph and Mary seeking refuge. This group gathers outside the church, social hall or home, while the other half, representing the innkeepers stays inside.

Both groups should have several assembly books so everyone can follow along and sing together. The pilgrims, holding candles, start singing the first part of the song, and the innkeepers respond to them, singing another verse, and so on until the final section when everyone sings: “Entren, santos peregrinos” (“Come and enter, holy pilgrims”) as the innkeepers open the doors and the pilgrims are finally invited in.

If someone in your community plays an instrument, this is a perfect occasion for them to play for their family and friends, but make sure they can listen to the music before and have the sheet music available.

Post-posadas celebration

Once inside, more readings, reflections, songs and prayers can be shared. And after that, it’s common to have a communal meal with traditional Mexican dishes and drinks like ponche.

Las Pasadas cover

Las Posadas

All in all, celebrating the posadas is a wonderful way to unite families, friends and communities, and it also serves as a reminder that by welcoming the poor and needy, we are welcoming Jesus into our lives.
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