‘Tis the season of posadas
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
Although the pre-Christmas season began with the lighting of the Christmas tree in the Jardín, this decoration has not overwhelmed strong traditions such as the public posadas —processions that commemorate Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn in Bethlehem, before the birth of the infant Jesus. Since the beginning of this month, the piñatas are also everywhere, as well as Christmas stands to buy the (nacimientos) nativity scenes, which range from 350 to 3,000 pesos.
The tradition of the posadas was brought to New Spain by the evangelist friars and takes place from December 16 to 24. For the processions it is essential to have a misterio (sculptures of Virgin Mary riding a donkey, Joseph who walks next to the donkey and an angel lighting the path). Traditionally, the misterio is carried by children. The neighbors of the streets get organized to hold the celebrations and for the first posada the misterio leaves from a private house or from a church to someone else’s house, where the attendees pray. After the prayers, those who host the posada share hot beverages and candies for children and smash piñatas.
In San Miguel, there are some documents stating that the first posadas in the Villa of San Miguel el Grande (San Miguel de Allende, nowadays) were celebrated in 1737 during some masses called “aguinaldo” at the Oratorio, where currently the most traditional posadas are held yearly. 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 the litany 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. Local historian Gloria Navarrete said that during the posadas at the Oratorio, some Christmas carols written by sanmiguelenses José María Correa and Genaro Sandí in early 1900 can be heard, such as “Llegó el tiempo” (The time has come) or “Avecillas tristes” (Sad Birds).
The public posadas feature live pilgrims in costumes of Mary, Joseph and the angel, who pass through the streets in a cart. The procession also features live music and Christmas carols. In a document published in 1995 by the then city historian José Cornelio López Espinosa, it states that the public posadas were being carried out in 1913 in San Miguel, however, due to the Revolutionary War, they were cancelled. At that time, the cart with the pilgrims was pulled by mules. In December 1939, during Elulalio Nava’s administration—information confirmed by Gloria Navarrete—the tradition was restored.
Navarrete—who was invited to portray Virgin Mary in 1956—commented that when she participated at that time, the cart carrying the misterio was the one used for collecting the solid wastes in the city. She also said that the procession was headed by the shepherds who used to sing Christmas carols accompanied with music from a sax, a guitar and a trumpet. The musicians were followed by the pilgrims and behind the pilgrims, said Navarrete “there was a very old cart carrying the piano of Antonio Correa and a choir. In every stop of the procession they sang the San Miguel Christmas carols.” A few years ago, some mojigangas (giant puppets made of cardboard) were added to the procession but this year instead the mojigangas it will feature 20 giant wooden stars.
All the public posadas—from the first to the ninth—take place at 7pm and they leave from the following places, respectively: Jardín Principal, church of San Francisco, church of Our Lady of Health, church of Las Monjas, parish of San Antonio, church of San Juan de Dios, the Oratorio, herradura of the colonia Aurora and the last one leaves from the church of Santa Ana. Check Festivals and Events of Qué Pasa to know the whole route.
To decorate for Christmas
Tinsel, mistletoe, stars, strings of lights and more ornaments for the tree or just to decorate the house can be purchased in two markets set up during the season. The first one is located in the barrio of San Juan de Dios, next to the market—with the same name—and opens daily from 8am-8pm. The second — which has been open since December 1 and will close on the 25th — is located in the tianguis area of the Ignacio Ramírez market, with the same schedule.
25 years ago, in the Plaza Cívica and Plaza la Soledad (in front of El Oratorio and the church of La Salud) there was a market, but it was consumed by fire and, since then, some vendors are allow to install their stands in different locations. One of those traders is Dolores Gutiérrez Santana, who said that the most popular adornments are lanterns made of paper.
Gutiérrez also commented that the nativity scenes measuring 60 centimeters and made of plaster cost 550 pesos; and they include a baby Jesus, Virgin Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, an ox, a donkey and one shepherd. The baby Jesus can be purchased apart; the prices of the nativity scenes as well as of the baby Jesus will depend on the size and the materials.
One of the most traditional elements of the season and the main attraction for the children of the posadas, are the piñatas. According to the webpage of the archdioceses of León, it was originated in China and was related to agriculture. The tradition was extended to Europe where people gave it a religious meaning. The traditional piñata 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.
The colored paper means the attraction that Evil uses to convince people to sin, and the seven spikes mean the seven deadly sins. Hitting blindfolded the piñata, means the faith that the Catholic has to believe without seeing. The stick that hits the piñata is equal to the will that someone has to defeat the world’s tricks. Finally, the content of the piñata –candies, toys and money sometimes—are the reward for defeating evil.
Traditional piñatas can be found on Loreto 6 with doña Susana Barrera, who has been making piñatas “with lots of love, dedication and caring” for 25 years. The prices go from 40 to 110 pesos.
Other piñatas with a base of glued newspaper are on sale at the Mercado Ignacio Ramírez. These piñatas are made by a sanmiguelense called “don piñatas” and the prices vary from 35 to 60 pesos. The piñatas are on sale the whole year in the market.
This year, on Friday, December 13, the Jardín Principal will be illuminated by the light of more than 1500 lanterns made of colored paper.
These are the translations of some traditional carols of the public posadas. Check the original lyric on the Spanish version of this article.
Shepherds let´s go in to our cabins because it is raining
In a portal of straw and sand, on Christmas Eve Jesus Christ was born
Shepherds, let´s go to Bethlehem, to see the Virgin Mary and to the Child too
Shepherds keep walking, follow the star lighting our path.