Iride Aparicio in conversation with Rosa Rodas.

 Photos Courtesy: Rosa Carlota Rodas
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA –  Relating the story of Jesus’ birth in his Gospel,  Luke wrote the following paraphrased paragraphs:

Luke 2:7: “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David which is called Bethlehem, to be taxed with his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should deliver. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for then in the Inn.”  

Based on those verses, “Las Posadas” originated in Guatemala, Central America, with the purpose to re-enact, every December, the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem of Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary.

The Catholic ritual may be described as small processions held every night, from December 16th to December 23rd, in which the “peregrinos” (pilgrims) as the statues of Joseph and Mary, standing or Mary sitting on a donkey led by San Joseph, are called, carried on an anda (platform) are paraded on different streets and brought to a different house every night.  Inside the visiting house, they the anda is placed on an elaborate altar, (which was prepared by the person receiving the Posada) and those participating, keeling in front of the statued,  pray, sing, and at the end of their prayers eat tamales and fruit punch, If the owner of the house provides music, recorded or live with marimba, all the guest dance.

The Peregrinos remain for one night in that house. The next evening, the people gather on that house and in a new procession the Peregrinos are taken to another house where the ritual from the previous night is repeated. On the the night of the 23th, the Pilgrims return home to the house where The Posada originated, and their return is celebrated.   

The Posada from the Corpus Christi  Church in San Francisco

In Guatemala, the “Posadas” processions are noisy. Traditionally, one hears the sound of  LA TORTUGA (Turtle) which is created by a large hollow turtle shell  that is hit with a stick, (as a drum) to create a particular rhythm,  The "Posadas” also have their  own Christmas Villancicos (Songs) and they are sung to create a dialogue between the group accompanying the Peregrinos (Joseph and Mary) in the procession and the people inside the house where they are going to stay.
The reason for this dialogue ia that every night, when The Pilgrims’ procession arrive at the  house, the find that the door is closed, so they stop in front of the closed door and the people, impersonating Joseph and Mary introduce themselves in the following choir:  

“We are two pilgrims coming to your door, to ask you  for shelter,  for the love of God.  My wife’s name is Maria, and I am Jose. open your doors so we could stat in your home. (the verses of the villancico continue)

When they are over those people inside the house, reply:

We don’t know you, we don’t know who you are. There is no shelter for you in our house.
Still with the door closed, the dialogue in song between the Peregrinos and the people inside the house, continues for a few stanzas  until those inside hear Joseph telling his wife (also in song) that they must go. At this moment, the  people inside the house opens the door of the house and prepares to welcome them singing:

“Please, come back, Maria,  Please, come back Jose. May this door open to welcome you into our home. .

After the Peregrinos enter the house, they burn firecrackers, welcoming them and music is played. The anda is  deposited on top of an elaborate  Altar  and all the people in the procession who had been waiting outside enter the house, In front of the altar, all Kneel and pray the “ritual prayers for that particular night.”

The type of party, following the entrance of the Peregrinos in a house, depends of the house’s owners. Some are elaborate and include a beautiful Christmas tree, a Nacimiento (nativity) poinsettias adorning the house, and for music a marimba orchestra. Other parties are more simple,but what we ought to remember is that “The Posadas” being a Catholic Pre-Christmas ritual are not for people to party, but have another purpose.

Their purpose is to re-enact the arrival of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem where they were considered Pilgrims, and remind all Christians that we all are pilgrims on this earth, because our  eternal home is heaven,

The story, also teach us to be strong, because during our pilgrimage on this world, we too are going to be rejected, not once, but many times as Joseph and Mary were on the night they were searching for a room in an Inn and were humiliated when instead of offering them a room to stay, they were given a stable.

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Corpus Christi Church

Las Posadas are also celebrated in Mexico and other Catholic countries and this year they have them in the Mission District (the Latino District) in San Francisco. Mrs. Rosa Carlota Rodas, a resident, described the event to CULTURAL WOLD BILINGUAL.

The Posadas were organized the Corpus Christi Church located in Number 62 Santa Rosa Avenue (94112). and were a little different from the posadas in Guatemala. One difference was that the posadas here were sponsored by different members of the Church, and since the Peregrinos (The statues of Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary)  belong to the church, they did not stayed overnight in a different house each night, but left the church in a procession, walked a few blocks on the street accompanied by people singing “Canticos Navideños” as the Christmas Carols in Spanish are called,  and then returned to the church’s hall for prayers and a party organized and paid for by the Posada’s different sponsors, who supplied the food and drinks for the guests. So while the ritual part of La Posada was the same every night’s party and food in the party was different.

The S.F. Posadas started on December 16the. In a procession in which the “Peregrinos” (The statues of San Joseph and the Virgin Mary carried on the anda) followed by the parishioners, praying the rosary and singing villancicos Navideños (Christmas Carols in Spanish). Some days the Posada paraded around the block of the church and other days, it went on a longer walk which included Mission Street, from Teresa Street to Brazil. The length of the walk depended on the weather, Following the procession, the images were returned to the church hall where there was a gathering of people, food and music provided by different music groups, including mariachis, The Posada was for families so it included children.

Singing and praying the Parishioners follow  the Corpus Christi’s Posada

On the two last day, however which were Saturday December 22nd  and Sunday December 23rd, the posada was in the morning not at night, and instead of returning to the hall it  returned to the church, where it was followed by a mass in Spanish. On the Sunday, it was also in the morning and was also followed by a mass. At the end of the mass the parishioners moved to the hall for a reunion which included food, music and a piñata  for the children

THE POSADAS ended with a piñata

And walking behind Joseph and Mary, in San Francisco as in Guatemala the parishioners ponder on the true meaning of Christmas, which is not the exchanging of gifts, fut the exchanging of love.

The birth of Jesus, was the Gift that God gave to us to teach us to love one another. So, if instead of a fancy gift, you send a Christmas card, or an e-mail, to a friend this year, or called somebody telling a person: On this time when we think of those who are dear to us, and that the reason I am calling, you, you know the meaning of Christmas.

And to love is exactly what the The Posadas” with their procession, songs and prayers try to remind us, as we prepare our souls for Christmas, which is the  advent, (el advenimiento) The birth of Jesus, who was love and came to the world to teach us to love another when he was born in Bethlehem many centuries ago, That was the Advent then, but now the Advent that all  Christians in the world experience every December 24th at midnight, is no longer the birth of Jesus in a manger, but the birth of Jesus in their hearts.


La Sra. Rosa Carlota Rodas