The holidays are right around the corner, and although Christmastime may look a little different and distanced this year, there is no better time to learn about festivities around the world and appreciate the customs of other cultures. In the Hispanic community, the holiday season consists of many unique traditions. The most famous are the Christmas posadas, and they take place from December 16th through the 24th. During las posadas, community members reenact the nativity story, particularly Mary and Joseph’s pilgrimage to Bethlehem in search of shelter.
Each night, designated homes in a community are chosen to represent the posadas or the inns. Meanwhile, “families form a procession, led by a child dressed as an angel. Two other children dress as Mary (who may ride a burro) and Joseph, while the others singing villancios (Christmas carols), follow with lighted candles and faroles (paper lanterns).” The participants then stop at the posadas and ask to be allowed into the homes. After they are welcomed inside, the families come together to eat and enjoy the festivities. The night often includes a piñata, which children and brave adults take turns hitting.
In Hispanic households, Christmas celebrations begin on Nochebuena, the night before Christmas Day. During Nochebuena, families gather around the dinner table to enjoy a holiday feast and celebrate together. What you eat for dinner depends on where you come from. For example, in Mexico, many of us celebrate Nochebuena with tamales, pozole, atole or bacalao (cod fish).
Did you know that the poinsettia and its connection to Christmas originates from Mexican traditions? The plant is native to the country, and it is customary to place poinsettias inside the home or even gift them to friends and family throughout the holidays. According to the traditional legend, each year during Christmastime, a church in a small town in Mexico put up a manger, and everyone would bring gifts to honor the birth of Christ. A young child did not have a gift to give and so, on her way to the manger, she picked up some weeds off the ground. When she arrived at the church, the weeds turned a bright red, and since then, the poinsettia is considered a Christmas essential.
Like many other communities around the world, Hispanics bring their own unique traditions to the celebration of Christmas. Although this holiday season will be unlike any other for many of us, it’s up to us to honor our traditions (or make new ones!) as best as we can. If you want to learn more about Hispanic Christmas traditions, click on the book covers below to check out these fun reads for you and your family!