The Posada

It’s posada season in Mazatlán! Everyone you talk to is a bit bleary-eyed from all the partying going on this time of year. “Posada” is a term for parties traditionally held during the nine nights just prior to Christmas: December 16 through 24. A posada can be a private party held in a family home, but it is more typically a street or block party or an end-of-the-year celebration for company employees or club members. If you didn’t attend a posada last night, you no doubt heard the banda music from the party down the street, well into the early hours of the morning. The badge of honor is to be able to brag that you partied till 4:00 or 5:00 am—desvelarse or stay up till morning. Yes, even if, like me, you are nearly fifty, or if you are seventy, or older. Posadas have no age limit.

Music and Food

A typical posada has music, of course, preferably live music. There may be dancing, and partygoers often sing villancicos or carols. Typical posada dishes include tamales, buñuelos, pozole, colación (candy mix), and atole or ponche. Ponche is made from seasonal fruits like tejocote, guava, plum, mandarin, orange, or prune, sweetened with piloncillo (a brown sugar) and perfumed with cinnamon sticks or vanilla. Some piquete (sting) may be added for grownups—a bit of rum or tequila—to make the ponche “happier.”


Children at a posada enjoy breaking open a piñata in the shape of a seven-pointed star. It is said the piñata originated in China as a springtime festival treat. Marco Polo transported the idea to Italy, where piñatas came to represent the triumph of good over evil. The seven points of a traditional Mexican Christmas piñata represent the capital sins, and the stick that the children use to break open the piñata represents the power of faith to overcome those sins. The people watching the child with the stick, hitting the piñata, sing this song:

Dale, dale, dale,
 no pierdas el tino;
porque si lo pierdes,
 pierdes el camino.

In English:
Hit it, hit it, hit it, 
don’t lose aim;
because if you lose it, 
you will lose your way.

The Pastorela

Traditionally a posada also includes a pastorela, a procession commemorating Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem for the census. As the Bible tells us, they searched everywhere for lodging and were turned away, there being no room at any inn. Sometimes a boy and a girl dress as Mary and Joseph, and Mary may even ride a burro. In some pastorelas you may see shepherds, cows, kings—it can be an entire Christmas pageant.

More typically, however, the guests at a posada carry candles, and they parade from house to house along a street or block. One person or several carry a nacimiento or manger scene. Some members of the posada group stand outside, and some stand inside the gate of each house. The people standing outside, carrying the nacimiento, ask for lodging, usually using the song or chant below. The people standing inside the house gates turn them down, again following the chant or song below. This pattern is repeated at each house on the block: the Holy Family and group outside plead for lodging, and the group inside the house turns them down in a threatening manner. It’s a sad and moving scene. Below is the song:

Outside Singers
Inside Response
Outside Singers
Inside Response
En el nombre del cielo
os pido posada, pues no puede andar mi esposa amada.
Aquí no es mesón,
sigan adelante. Yo no debo abrir, no sea algún tunante.
In the name of Heaven I beg you for lodging, for she cannot walk, my beloved wife.
This is not an inn, so keep going. I cannot open; you may be a rogue.
No seas inhumano,
tennos caridad, que el Dios de los cielos te lo premiará.
Ya se pueden ir y no molestar porque si me enfado os voy a apalear.
Don’t be inhuman;
Have mercy on us.
The God of the heavens will reward you for it.
You can go on now and don’t bother us, because if I become annoyed I’ll give you a thrashing.
Venimos rendidos desde Nazaret, yo soy carpintero de nombre José.
No me importa el nombre, déjenme dormir, pues que yo les digo que nos hemos de abrir.
We are worn out coming from Nazareth. I am a carpenter, Joseph by name.
I don’t care about your name. Let me sleep, because I already told you, we shall not open up.
Posada te pide,
amado casero,
por sólo una noche
la Reina del Cielo.
Pues si es una reina
quien lo solicita,
¿cómo es que de noche anda tan solita?
I’m asking you for lodging dear man of the house. Just for one night for the Queen of Heaven.
Well, if it’s a queen who solicits it, why is it at night that she travels so alone?
Mi esposa es María,
es Reina del Cielo y madre va a ser del Divino Verbo.
¿Eres ú José? ¿Tu esposa es María? Entren, peregrinos,
no los conocía.
My wife is Mary
She’s the Queen of Heaven and she’s going to be the mother of the Divine Word.
Are you Joseph?
Your wife is Mary?
Enter, pilgrims;
I did not recognize you.
Dios pague, señores,
vuestra caridad, y que os colme el cielo de felicidad.
¡Dichosa la casa
que alberga este día
a la Viren pura, la hermosa María!
May God pay, gentle folks, your charity, and thus heaven heap happiness upon you.
Blessed is the house that shelters this day the pure Virgin, the beautiful Mary.
Finally, at the last home, the owner of the house throws open the gates and joyously welcomes in the Holy Family. Upon opening the doors at the final stop, the tune changes, the pilgrims enter, and all sing these final verses in unison:
Entren, Santos Peregrinos, reciban este rincón, que aunque es pobre la morada,
os la doy de corazón.
Enter, holy pilgrims, receive this corner,
for though this dwelling is poor, I offer it with all my heart.
Oh, peregrina agraciada, oh, bellísima María. Yo te ofrezco el alma mía para que tengáis posada.
Oh, graced pilgrim, oh, most beautiful Mary. I offer you my soul so you may have lodging.
Humildes peregrinos Jesús, María y José,
el alma doy por ellos, mi corazón también.
Humble pilgrims, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give my soul for them and my heart as well.
Cantemos con alegría todos al considerar
que Jesús, José y María nos vinieron a honrar.
Let us sing with joy, all bearing in mind
that Jesus, Joseph and Mary honor us by having come.
To conclude the pastorela the guests often sing “Ave María” and perhaps “El Rorro” (Babe in Arms).
Flores de Noche Buena/Poinsettias
Poinsettias are native to México, and their name in Spanish means “Flowers of the Holy Night.” Its name in English comes from the last name of the American man who popularized the shrub. It is a very typical Christmas gift as well as a decoration here in Mexico.

There is an interesting legend surrounding the poinsettia. A young child, Pepita (the child is variously a boy or a girl and with varying names depending on the storyteller), is heading to church on Christmas Eve. Pepita’s heart is filled with sadness; she very much wants to give the Christ Child a gift, but she is poor and has nothing to give. The child’s cousin, Pedro (or variously her mother, friend, or brother, again depending on the storyteller), tells Pepita that even the most humble gift when given in love will make Jesus happy. Pepita kneels down by the side of the road, her heart full of love, and gathers a bouquet of weeds. When Pepita places her weed bouquet beside the baby Jesus in the church, miraculously the weeds burst into blooms with bright red, star-shaped petals and brilliant yellow centers.

About Dianne Hofner Saphiere

There are loads of talented people in this gorgeous world of ours. We all have a unique contribution to make, and if we collaborate, I am confident we have all the pieces we need to solve any problem we face. I have been an intercultural organizational effectiveness consultant since 1979, working primarily with for-profit multinational corporations. I lived and worked in Japan in the late 70s through the 80s, and currently live in and work from México, where with a wonderful partner we've raised a bicultural, global-minded son. I have worked with organizations and people from over 100 nations in my career. What's your story?

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