Las Posada, Piñatas, Ponche, and Prayer - Christmas Traditions in Mexico
FSSP Mission Youth Group Holds Christmas Party for Teen Mothers
Several young ladies from Our Lady of the Pillar‘s youth group held a posada (Christmas Party) for moms and their children at El Refugio, a shelter named after Our Lady of Refuge and built for teen mothers who have suffered sexual abuse.
We arrived at El Refugio in the evening of December 16 and began praying the rosary with the young mothers there. The wonderful sound of thirty girls praying the Hail Mary together filled the dining hall.
Following the Rosary, our youth group, as well as the moms with their children, split up. Half went outside with their lit candles and the small statue of St. Joseph and Mary on the donkey. The girls outside the dining hall sang and asked for posada while the girls inside the dining hall refused until the song ended.
The girls were then offered the spinach and pineapple tamales that we had brought them, as well as the ponche, Christmas cookies, and marshmallow sweets. Many of the mothers–some as young as fourteen– had tears in their eyes as they expressed sincere gratitude for the supper and desserts we had prepared. We sat down after we finished eating and talked with the mothers while holding their newborns.
One cute little boy happily let us take turns holding and passing him around while his mother helped with the cleanup. He didn’t make a sound or fuss in spite of the fact that he was missing a shoe. As his tiny gray sweatshirt kept riding up over his little, round stomach, he just looked around with his big, dark eyes and took in everything that was happening.
We ended the posada by breaking the three piñatas. The girls and their children strolled out to the basketball court where the small children took turns swinging at their piñata. Then it was their mothers’ turn! Father Heenan had a great time blindfolding each girl with a scarf and spinning her in a circle, one spin for each year she had lived, until she was dizzy. Then Father would lead her over to the piñata and scramble out of the way as she fiercely swung at the piñata.
Everyone had a great time, and the mothers applauded and clapped for us as we departed. Their deep gratitude made us feel incredibly blessed that we could provide some Christmas cheer to these brave young women and their adorable children. Please keep the adolescent moms of El Refugio in your thoughts and prayers this holiday season.
Las Posadas – A Christmas Tradition
The start of the Christmas parties, “posadas”, in Mexico is on December 16. Although many people here think of a posada as a Christmas drinking celebration conducted between the end of November and Christmas, the traditional posadas take place from December 16 to 23. Families and friends gather to pray the Rosary and pedir posada (ask for lodging) in commemoration of Our Lady and St. Joseph who were unable to obtain a room in the inn.
Following the Rosary, half of the participants remain inside the house, while the other half go outside holding lighted candles. The group outside dresses up as St. Joseph and begins to sing, pleading “in the name of Heaven” for shelter. Those inside answer with their song’s corresponding verse and refuse to let them in. The two groups exchange songs until the group inside discovers the identity of those seeking for sanctuary and ultimately opens the door to them.
The visitors are then treated to dinner, which usually consists of tacos, tostadas, or tamales, as well as a hot fruit drink called ponche, made from nuts, fruit bits, and sugarcane. Another popular drink at posadas is atole, a hot milk-based sweet drink thickened with corn flour and typically flavored with chocolate or fruit.
- 16 cups water
- 6 guavas, peeled and quartered
- 3 large red apples, cut into chunks
- 2 pears, cut into chunks
- 1 orange, sliced
- 1 piloncillo cone* (or 1 cup of dark brown sugar if you can’t find piloncillo)
- 6 whole cloves
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tablespoons dried hibiscus flowers*
- 1 dried tamarind pod*, husked and seeded
*These items can be found in the US at specialty grocery stores, Whole Foods, and on Amazon
– Place all ingredients in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
– Mix together and make sure the piloncillo/sugar has completely dissolved. Make sure each cup has some fruit in it – it’s the best part!
- 4 cups milk
- 4 ounces piloncillo*, plus more to taste
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup masa harina
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 pinch salt
*This items can be found in the US at specialty grocery stores, Whole Foods, and on Amazon
– Add milk, piloncillo, and cinnamon stick to a medium saucepan or pot. Heat over low-medium heat until the piloncillo has completely dissolved. Stir frequently to make sure the milk and piloncillo don’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
– Remove and discard the cinnamon stick, using a strainer if it has broken into pieces.
– In a small bowl, add warm water and masa harina. Whisk together until smooth.
– Add the masa harina mixture, vanilla extract, and salt to the saucepan. Whisk to combine.
– Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 25-30 minutes until thick, creamy, velvety, and smooth. The atole should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
– Serve and garnish with a touch of ground cinnamon or a cinnamon stick.
The posada may feature a pastorela, a Christmas drama performed by the children, and always concludes with the children’s favorite part – breaking a piñata filled with candy!
The piñata was initially used for evangelization because it portrays the battle between good and evil. In fact, every component of the piñata is religiously significant. A classic piñata is made up of seven cones, each representing one of the seven deadly sins: laziness, envy, gluttony, anger, lust, greed, and pride. The colorful paper that adorns the piñata reflects the world’s vanities and temptations.
Breaking the piñata with a stick symbolizes fighting evil, untruth, and even deception; doing so while blindfolded represents blind faith in God. Finally, the sweets signify the reward for fighting sin.
Marie is a valued parishioner and volunteer at Our Lady of Pillar, Guadalajara.