Las Posadas is one of my most treasured Christmas memories from growing up. A Mexican tradition (I wonder if it has roots in the Old World, or if it is only a New World custom), in the nine nights before Christmas (ending on Christmas Eve), families re-enact the journey through Bethlehem of Joseph and Mary as they look for a place to stay the night. The parts of Mary, Joseph and the Inn keeper are set to song, and repeated, again and again and again, till finally (the ninth time), doors are opened and revelry begun!
It has so many wonderful elements for children and their imaginations. It was so fun to play the roles: from the warmth of the house, we shouted with all our fury “There’s no room!” From the cold porch, we begged with all our might, “Let us in!” And when the play-acting was over, we just had a marvelous time with all our families and friends.
Well, I can relive those memories with two picture books written by two of my all-time favorite authors, Leo Politi and Tomie DePaola:
As I said in my First Things piece: Politi is the author of the classic Song of the Swallows, about the swallows returning to Capistrano. The John Paul Getty Museum has recently republished many of his classic works, some long forgotten. In Pedro, Politi introduces us to a lovely story about a section of Los Angeles where—at least in 1946, when the book was written—they still have blacksmiths, candle makers, and glassblowers. They also carry out the Mexican Christmas festival of the Posada…Pedro, a little boy who can sing like an angel, is responsible for this year’s decorations. His hard work is rewarded when he gets a beautiful music box from the piñata.
In dePaola’s take on this tradition, he draws from his own his own Christmas in Santa Fe, to tell the story of a nun, and her annual re-enactment of Las Posadas. When she falls ill and a snowstorm threatens the show, its Christmas spirit (blessings, grace, and generosity!) that save the day. DePaola has a deep reverence for the feast at hand, but for the actors themselves: men and women who love the Lord and each other, and do all to make this world a more joyful place. But you know I love his work, so I’ll leave it at that.
This dePaola book is part of a collection of Christmas stories published last year, called Joy to the World. But a single volume should not be hard to find used online, as well.
I highly recommend both these books, and encourage you to make a Las Posadas night in your own family. It is a worthy tradition!