Las Posadas – A Novenario of the Latinos


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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Chimayo Las Posadas (Photo - Mark Nohl)

The festival of Las Posadas celebrated chiefly in Mexico, Guatemala and parts of the Southwestern United States has its origins in Spain. Observing Las Posadas has been a tradition in Mexico for 400 years.

The Spanish phrase “Las Posadas” means “The Inns”, “accommodations”, or “lodgings”.

This traditional nine-day festival re-enacts the cold and difficult journey of María and José from Nazareth to Bethlehem and their search for a room at the lodgings in Bethlehem.

Even though the roots of this celebration are in Catholicism even Protestant Latinos follow the tradition.

The festivities of Las Posadas start in full swing on December 16th and ends on December 24th. These nine days are, in fact, a novenario – nine days of religious observance signifying the nine-month pregnancy of María carrying Jesús in her womb.

A red Poinsettia (Photo - André Karwath)

A red Poinsettia (Photo – André Karwath)

Devotees enact Las Posadas by carrying a doll or a statue representing the Christ Child and images of José and María riding a burro. The doll is left at the chosen home and picked up on the next night when the processional begins again. This continues for eight nights.

In certain areas, individuals play the part of María and José, with the expectant mother riding a real burro with attendant angels and shepherds; or the devotees would carry images of the holy family and the saints; followed by musicians, with the entire procession singing Posadas. Children may carry poinsettia flowers.

Holding candle lanterns the procession ambles through the streets of the community, stopping at previously selected residences, singing a Posada such as Para Posada (Asking for a place to stay). At each residence, the innkeeper responds to José’s query by singing a song.

Spanish

English

Afuera:
En nombre del cielo
Os pido posada
Pues no puede andar
Mi esposa amada
Outside - Joseph asks:
In the name of heaven
I request you grant us shelter
Given that she cannot walk
She is my beloved wife
Adentro:
Aquí no es mesón
Sigan adelante
Yo no puedo abrir
No sea algún tunante
 Inside - “Probable” host answers:
This is not an Inn
Please continue ahead
I cannot open
You may be a robber
Afuera:
No seas inhumano
Tennos caridad
Que el Rey de los cielos
Te lo premiará
Outside - Joseph replies:
Do not be inhuman
have mercy on us
Since the King of heavens
will reward you for that
Adentro:
Ya se pueden ir
Y no molestar
porque si me enfado
Os voy a apalear
Inside - Still “probable” host answers:
You can already go away
and do not bother
because if I get upset
I will beat you up
Afuera:
Venimos rendidos
Desde Nazaret
Yo soy carpintero
De nombre José
Outside - Joseph insists:
We come exhausted
From Nazareth
I am a carpenter
named Joseph
Adentro:
No me importa el nombre
Déjenme dormir
Porque ya les digo
Que no hemos de abrir
Inside - Still unconvinced host replies:
I don’t care about your name
Let me go to sleep
Because, as I said
We shall not open
Afuera:
Posada te pide
Amado casero
Por sólo una noche
La reina del cielo
Outside - Joseph expects reasoning:
She asks you shelter
Dear innkeeper
for just one night
She, the queen of heaven
Adentro:
Pues si es una reina
Quien lo solicita
¿Cómo es que de noche
Anda tan solita?
Inside - Almost convinced host asks:
So, if it’s a queen
who’s asking for it,
how is it that at night
she travels so alone?
Afuera:
Mi esposa es María
Es reina del cielo
Y madre va a ser
Del divino verbo
Outside - Joseph answers:
My wife is Mary
She’s the Heavenly Queen
And she’ll be mother
Of the divine word
Adentro:
¿Eres tú José?
¿Tu esposa es María?
Entren peregrinos
No los conocía
Inside - Convinced host finally offers shelter:
Are you Joseph?
Is your wife Mary?
Come in, pilgrims
I did not know you
Afuera:
Dios pague, señores
Vuestra caridad
Y que os colme el cielo
De felicidad
Outside - Joseph gratefully says:
May God reward, sirs
for your charity
And may heaven heap you
With happiness
Adentro:
Dichosa la casa
Que alberga este día
A la virgen pura
La hermosa María
Inside - Host replies:
Joyful be the house
That this day hosts
The pure virgin
The beautiful Mary

The innkeeper after recognizing María and José allow them and the group of guests to enter their home.

All sing together:

Spanish

English

¡Entren santos peregrinos!
¡Reciban éste rincón!
Que aunque es pobre la morada
¡Se las doy de corazón!
¡Cantemos con alegría!
¡Todos al considerar!
¡Que Jesús, José y María
nos vinieron hoy a honrar!
Come in, holy pilgrims!
Receive this corner!
Because, even though the place is poor
I offer it to you from my heart!
Let’s sing with joy!
Everyone at the thought!
That Jesus, Joseph and Mary
Came today to honor us!

Once inside, all kneel around the Nativity crib to pray the Rosary. The hosts provide refreshments.

The final location of the sojourn, most likely, would be a church where the devotees would sing villancicos at the end of each night’s journey.

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