By Mayra Moriel de Bañuelos
Coordinator of Hispanic Ministry
During the first days of Advent, the Latino community is busy preparing the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Dec. 3 marks the beginning of the Guadalupe novena, which continues through the feast day, which is tomorrow, Dec. 12. On Dec. 16, we mark the beginning of a new novena, known as the Posadas. These are great opportunities to celebrate Advent wtih the kids and get them involved in these special celebrations.
Back in my neighborhood, the Posadas had a great significance as we worked as a community preparing for the birth of Jesus. Each year, we selected nine homes to serve as host, one for each day of the novena. The children loved dressing up for the occasion, whether as Joseph, Mary or even as angels and shepherds. We would walk on the streets from house to house begging for shelter, in remembrance of Mary and Joseph's journey when they arrived in Bethlehem. Finally, the house selected for that day to be host would welcome us in for a feast that started with a rosary followed by the traditional pinata and food typical of the Christmas season: tamales, fruit punch and atole (a corn-based drink). We would do that every day for nine days!
The symbols of the celebrations are still very signficant. The piñata symbolizes the destruction of sin. A traditional piñata has seven cones representing the seven capital sins. The candy and goodies inside the piñata represent God's gifts to those who fight and defeat sin.
Christmas Eve on Dec. 24 is the last Posada and this one is celebrated as a family. After a large, late dinner when the clock hits midnight, the family will sing to the newborn baby Jesus. The youngest members of the family will carry around a figure baby Jesus for each of the attendees to kiss. Then the whole family lulls the baby to sleep. There is prayer and offering of gifts. We then go to bed knowing that Baby Jesus will leave a gift for us in the morning.
As with anything, traditions vary from country to country and even from different regions within countries. The common thing among all these is Jesus as the center of all celebrations, whether in his mother's womb in the Guadalupe novena, looking for a place to stay in the Posadas or putting the newborn to sleep. Jesus is certainly the reason for the season.