Los Posadas: Celebrating together
The tradition of Los Posadas brings home the meaning of Christmas in a tough city neighborhood.
By Guest Blogger Father Bruce Wellems, C.M.F.
The impact of the rejection could have been particularly difficult at the time. His wife was nine months pregnant, and they were without a place to stay. So he went to various inns, in a very poor town, to ask for lodging. There were none.
Seeking a place of welcome, of respite—a place at least where she would be comfortable to give birth was taking too much time. At last he found a stable, a manger where the Child would be born. And he, accompanied by a host of strangers, was grateful and filled with joy at the birth.
The story is retold and relived more than two thousand years later, on the near Southwest Side of Chicago, in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, for nine nights in a row. Hundreds of people, children and families, walk the streets together at 6 pm in darkness, accompanying two children dressed as Mary and Joseph.
During one recent evening, the procession lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes as it snowed two inches on the pilgrims making the journey through the streets. The couple knocked on a total of 12 doors, singing at each door the traditional song of Posadas, which asks for a place to stay. The owner refuses, saying there is no room at the inn. Finally, the large processions arrived at the parish hall where they were welcomed.
The throng entered the hall, cold, but grateful and happy. Once inside, sweet breads and hot punch-like drinks were served. Two piñatas were brought out to be broken by the children. Several donated gifts were raffled for the kids and some donated hams and turkeys were also raffled for adults. As children left the celebration they received a small bag of candy and peanuts.
This celebration has a lasting impact on a neighborhood suffering economic difficulties and political injustice. The gathering brings people together at Christmas and offers a sense of comfort and hope. Children are able to participate in a positive message that the journey, though difficult, is an experience of joy when shared together. The reflections offered at each home help people understand that despite the difficulties of life, being grateful is a valued response, and celebrating Christmas is truly about seeing each person as a member of our family.
Guest Blogger Father Bruce Wellems is a Claretian priest and pastor at Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish  in Chicago.
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