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For The Home

Finding Shelter

Author: Rachel Eroh
Issue: December, 2017, Page 136
“Las Posadas” by Southwestern artist Stephen Morath portrays the procession as Mary and Joseph  search for warmth and comfort.
Recreating Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, the Las Posadas is an enlightening tradition

On Christmas Eve, it’s customary for Christian families and friends around the world to gather in churches to celebrate the birth of Jesus. In many Spanish-speaking countries and regions, including the Southwest, this tradition is augmented by another—one that represents the journey that Mary and Joseph endured while traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem prior to his arrival. Called “Las Posadas,” which means “the inns,” it is held over the course of nine consecutive evenings to represent the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy.

Each night, participants walk in a procession from house to house asking for respite. In some communities, an attendant dressed in white to represent an angel guides Mary and Joseph. In others, children lead the group while musicians follow behind. For eight nights, the anxious couple is turned away. Then on the ninth night at the last house, they are welcomed in and offered warmth, food and shelter. The procession rejoices, and an evening of music and festivities ensues.

Rev. Peter Fabre introduced this tradition to his congregation at St. Christopher’s San Cristobal Episcopal Church in Sun City in 2010. He has found that through their participation, the congregation becomes part of the story, and they enjoy the fun it creates. “People like the mariachi music that is part of the ceremony. It’s a lot more high-energy and spirited than what you would normally hear at an Episcopal church on a Sunday morning,” he says.

Along the way, parishioners also learn about faith and pilgrimage—and about one another. “It can be a revelation to think in terms of Mary and Joseph and the difficulties they went through trying to find a place for the baby’s birth,” says Fabre. “It’s a very powerful thing to witness and experience.”
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