Christmas in Mexico is unapologetically Christian. The most powerful organization in the country is the Roman Catholic Church and it’s muscle of influence far exceeds that of any Mexican government. Approximately 70% to 80% of Mexicans consider themselves Roman Catholics and at Christmas time the churches are packed for numerous services with devout believers of all ages kneeling on the cold stone floors in an act of passionate faith and humble worship. It is a heart warming and touching spectacle even for the greatest skeptic.
Mexicans celebrate Posada, a unique and beautiful tradition observed in Mexico and other Latin American countries. A Posada is celebrated like this: the host and his family extend an invitation to family, friends and neighbours. The guests stand outside the door of the host and his family and ask for shelter . It is all done with a traditional song with set responses. The theme is based on the story of Mary and Joseph begging the inn keeper for shelter and of course they were turned away and spent the night in a cattle shed where Christ was born.
In Latin America this custom is a variation on this story but with typical generosity and hospitality, the host family embraces the outsiders and warmly welcomes them into their home. Enormous efforts are put into preparing delicious food and hot fruity drinks for all the guests. Last year I had the privelege of being invited to the the Posada at the Spanish Experience Centre as the guest of Sarai the director. The building is lovely with iron gates at the entrance and the interior tiled with talavera. There is an inner courtyard and stone steps lead up to the spacious roof terrace where there is room to stretch ones legs in comfort or sit and study at a table. There are also additional classrooms.
We sang the traditional song, took candles and walked around the block. Inside a feast beckoned. We started with a warm Mexican style punch loaded with exotic fruits. then soup, followed by piping hot tomales Vera Cruz style which were absolutely divine. Little desserts followed but I barely had any room left.
Posada is celebrated from the 16th of December until the 24th . On Christmas Day families get together exchange gifts and feast on Turkey, various kinds of mole, enchiladas, and tomales. It is however the concept of Posada that has truly captured my heart and is the one I find the most endearing.
I am a foreigner in Mexico, and there can be difficulties for non Mexicans living here but at the Posada I received an unconditional welcome and I was embraced as family. It was a profoundly touching experience and a memory I will always treasure.