Last night Alejandro's family hosted a "posada". "Las Posadas" are the traditional Mexican celebrations which are held on the nine nights leading up to Christmas. The previous night, Alejandro's next-door neighbor held a "posada", and tonight another neighbor is having one. And so it will continue until Christmas Eve.
The word "posada" means lodging, and the ceremony represents Joseph and Mary's search for room at the inn.
Around eight o'clock last night cars were moved to block their side street from traffic. We blew whistles to let the neighbors know that it was time for the "posada". Around sixty five neighbors gathered in front of the house. It was actually a fairly small group; last year around 120 people had participated.
The participants formed a candle-light procession (although with the breeze that was blowing, not many of the candles stayed lit).. At the head of the procession figures of Joseph and Mary were carried. We walked up and down the street while one of the women chanted religious blessings.
The group gathered in front of the door of Alejandro's house, and began singing the "posada" song. "In the name of heaven, I ask you for lodging..." Those outside beg for admittance, and those inside the door repeatedly turn them away.
After several verses of the song, the doors are swung open, and the pilgrims are welcomed inside.
The figurines of Joseph and Mary are placed by the Nativity scene, and prayers are said.
The guests then returned to the street where the breaking of the piñatas took place. The piñatas were hung from a rope strung across the street. The children took turns trying to break the candy-filled vessels with a stick. When the piñata was broken, the children scrambled for the candy which fell to the ground.
After the piñatas were broken, we returned inside, and we were served warm fruit punch and "tacos de canasta". The tacos are the kind that are sold by street vendors from large baskets. (Alejandro's family buys them from a place where they know that they are prepared hygienically.) The tacos are filled with frijoles, potatoes, meat or "chicarrón" (pork rinds). They are greasy, but oh so yummy.
I felt very privileged to have shared with Alejandro's family this most Mexican of Christmas traditions!