Posadas reenact the search for shelter
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
In Mexico the tradition of recreating the journey made by the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph was brought by the Spaniards, and in San Miguel de Allende there are documents stating that the posadas have been held since 1737 through the misas de Aguinaldo. Currently the only church preserving the celebration of the posadas (inns) in the old-fashioned way is El Oratorio. In 1913 the population started holding public posadas, and the procession was led by a cart carrying the sacred family and pulled by a horse. Beginning 25 years ago a small Christmas Fair has been held in the Mercado Ignacio Ramírez, where all kinds of ornaments for decorating the nativity scene or the Christmas tree can be purchased. This year the municipality will set up a huge Christmas tree, and as ever the piñatas will be the “soul of the party.”
Posadas are held from December 16 to 24 and are a reenactment of the journey made by the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph and their search for shelter. They are organized by residents of a street or neighborhood. For celebrating the liturgy a figure of the Santos Peregrinos is needed, made up OF Virgin Mary riding a donkey, St. Joseph and an angel; most of the time the figures are small because they are carried by children, although sometimes the organizers prefer to have children personifying the holy family. The first posada leaves from the neighborhood church or from the house of those who own the santitos (saints). Some children are dressed as shepherds carrying panderos (poles decorated with tinsel, glitter and bells), which make sound while they sing Christmas carols along their journey.
When the procession arrives at the house where the pilgrims will rest that night, after having been turned away several times at other dwellings, the door is closed, so the people outside with the sacred family must ask for shelter by singing a song, letting the “innkeepers” know that they are tired of walking. The owners inside respond with a song, telling the pilgrims they are annoyed at them for knocking that late and that if they keep harassing them they will hit the travelers. Then Joseph explains to them where they are from and who they are and also tells them that Mary is carrying God’s son. After that, the owners open the door and sing “get in, saint pilgrims.” After the rosary is prayed, tamales, ponche and buñuelos are handed out to the attendees, who also receive aguinaldos (little bags of candies and fruits). The posada ends with the breaking of the piñata.
The element that most attracts children to the posadas is the piñata. According to doña Susana Barrera Perales, who has made traditional piñatas for more than 25 years, the star-shape piñatas with seven spikes represent the seven capital sins, which must be defeated by hitting them; for that reason, the piñatas are hit, to destroy evil. The piñatas can contain candies, fruit, toys and, sometimes, money.
Doña Susana commented that the traditional piñata that she makes has a clay pot as a base, which is covered with paper and a paste made of water and flour. Later, seven spikes made of paper are glued on. After this, the piñata is decorated with colored paper. “The stars cost 90 pesos,” commented doña Susana. “The donkeys are more complicated, and for that reason the cost is 100 pesos. Children are always amazed by the donkeys, as well as the foreigners who love buying these piñatas.” Doña Susana’s piñatas can be purchased at Loreto 8 in Centro, Monday through Saturday from 10am–5pm. More piñatas are for sale at the Mercado Ignacio Ramírez, and the prices vary.
About 25 years ago, a market located at the current Plaza Cívica was consumed by fire. Since then, some vendors of that market are allowed to sell Christmas ornaments in December at the Mercado Ignacio Ramírez, said Alicia Bautista. Dolores Gutiérrez said, “Our clients can decorate a two-meter-high Christmas tree for just 300 pesos, including ornaments, tinsel, bells, lights and an angel or a star for the top of the tree.” Gutiérrez also commented that a nativity scene made of resin and plaster costs 1,000 pesos and includes the sacred family, an angel, the three wise men, an ox, a donkey, 10 shepherds and shepherdesses and some animals. Baby Jesus can be purchased separately; the prices depend on the material and the size. Gutiérrez has images made of plaster that measure 60 cm for 190 pesos, 35 cm for 115 pesos, and the smallest for 25 pesos.
Alicia Bautista said that the innovation this year are the LED Christmas lights and also commented that the most popular are those for saving electricity. In these stands all the ornaments for decorating the nativity scene or the posada can be purchased: candles, angels, lucecitas (sparklers) and more. The vendors commented: “Our prices are the best in San Miguel.”
Another Christmas fair is held at Mercado San Juan de Dios.
The public posadas
Information provided by Professor Ruben Villasana, a traditionalist native of San Miguel, written by the former city historian José López Espinosa, states that the public posadas were initiated in 1913 in the city “with a cart pulled by a horse in which the images of the pilgrims were carried.” The document was published in 1995 and states that “the revolution interrupted the celebration of religious public festivities” but they were revived in 1939 by the municipal authorities and some sanmiguelenses. The reenacted journey has not varied much over the years. Currently the first posada with the “car of the posadas” carries live actors portraying the pilgrims, which is followed by a group of children dressed as shepherds and a band playing Christmas carols. The first posada leaves from the Jardín Principal in front of the Parroquia and arrives at another church in el Centro or another neighborhood. During the journey, on the streets some traditionalists share aguinaldos with the people strolling behind the pilgrims; other citizens put up piñatas to be broken, and other throws aguinaldos from their balconies.
Posadas at the Oratorio
Liz Origel is a member of the Esclavitud Lauretana at El Oratorio and commented that the posadas held at the Oratorio are very traditional. At 6pm the mass is celebrated; later they pray the rosary. After they finish praying an altar boy pulls a cart with the images of the pilgrims while the attendees sing Christmas carols and pray Ora pro nobis. The posada, shelter, is asked for by the tuna oratoriana from El Oratorio, singing outside the Holy House of Loreto located inside the Oratorio. The posada concludes with the handing out of aguinaldos. Liz Origel said that everyone is invited to enjoy the posadas so the tradition can be preserved.
Look for the local government’s Christmas program in Festival and Events in Que Pasa