In Mexico, posadas bring early Christmas spirit, community

Dec 23, 2022, 3:37 PM | Updated: Dec 24, 2022, 5:47 am
Residents carry a statue of baby Jesus in the procession of "Niñopan" during a Christmas "posada,"...

Residents carry a statue of baby Jesus in the procession of "Niñopan" during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

(AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

              A woman hits a traditional Christmas "pinata" filled with fruit and candy during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
            
              Residents participate in the procession of "Ninopan" during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
            
              Mexican "chinelo" dancers participate in the procession of "Ninopan" during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
            
              Residents participate in the procession of "Ninopan" during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
            
              A man participate in the procession of "Ninopan" during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
            
              Residents participate in the procession of "Ninopan" during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
            
              A Mexican "chinelo" dancer adjusts his hat for the procession of "Niñopan" during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
            
              A man with light flares participate in the procession of "Ninopan" during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
            
              A resident carries the statue of a baby Jesus in the procession of "Niñopan" during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
            
              A boy hits a traditional Christmas "pinata" filled with fruit and candy during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
            
              Mexican "chinelo" dancers participate in the procession of "Ninopan" during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
            
              A music participate in the procession of "Ninopan" during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
            
              Residents with light flares participate in the procession of "Ninopan" during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
            
              Residents participate in the procession of "Niñopan" during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
            
              Residents carry a statue of baby Jesus in the procession of "Niñopan" during a Christmas "posada," which means lodging or shelter, in the Xochimilco borough of Mexico City, Wednesday Dec. 21, 2022. For the past 400 years, residents have held posadas between Dec. 16 and 24, when they take statues of baby Jesus in procession to church for Mass to commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — For Miguel Zadquiel, the secret to staying in step as he dances at the front of the annual Christmastime procession through his neighborhood is in the bass drum.

“For every sound it makes, I move one foot, then another one, then I jump around, then I move my shoulders,” he said.

The 14-year-old was one of the dozens of dancers and musicians at the front of this week’s joyful parade of people winding through the streets of the Mexico City borough of Xochimilco. This festive procession and its related events are known as a posada and happen across the country. The yearly, Catholic tradition carries on for nine nights, starting Dec. 16 and ending on the 24th.

The style of each posada varies from town to town, but traditionally it is a re-enactment of part of the Christmas story. Night after night, two volunteers dress as Mary and Joseph and walk through their community, knocking on a different door each day of the Posada season. Their journey symbolizes the biblical couples’ walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem and the eventual refuge they find in a stable where Jesus is born.

Some neighbors join in the procession carrying candles. Others wait for it to arrive at the home where the pair playing the holy couple is finally received and the celebration continues. There’s singing, sharing of traditional food and the breaking open of a piñata when the colorful papier-mâché container gives way, spilling candy into the hands of the children waiting in anticipation.

Posada season in Xochimilco is unique in that the neighborhood honors the Niñopa – the most venerated image of baby Jesus in the borough and considered its patron – and the story of Mary and Joseph simultaneously.

“This is the first time I’ve come, and I really like how joyful everything is,” said Donaldo López, who lives about an hour away but was invited by his sister who recently moved to Xochimilco.

Beside him, two young girls threw confetti to the street as their mother readied her camera to take a picture of the Niñopa. The origin of the Niñopa is unclear, but the life-size wooden figure of a baby in white is believed to be about 450 years old and found after the Spanish conquest. Catholic families in Xochimilco typically keep images of him in their homes.

“He’s very miraculous,” said Fernanda Mimila, a Xochimilco resident watching the procession. “We’ve read many stories about him and every time my family and I are near him, we can feel his vibes and we feel like crying.”

Devotees were once allowed to touch and carry the Niñopa, but it’s now considered too old for frequent handling and requires more care to maintain its condition, said Abraham Cruz. The Xochimilco resident and his relatives had the honor of hosting the Niñopa in their home for this year’s 6th posada and held a celebration for it, a common occurrence during Posadas season. Families request to host the Niñopa years in advance.

“Today’s posada was assigned 10 years ago,” Cruz said. “The family that organized the second posada of this season had to wait for 28 years!”

The Xochimilco posadas last several hours longer than most, and start at 8 a.m. when the host family picks up the Niñopa from its stewards. It ends about a dozen hours later when the figure is returned. Throughout the day, a priest celebrates a Mass, a meal is served and devotees can approach the homemade altar where the Niñopa is kept until nightfall.

Everyone can join the night celebration when volunteers hand out sparklers, balloons and confetti. The neighborhood comes to life with couples holding hands, young men pushing their grandmothers in wheelchairs and parents hugging their children to keep them warm.

This week hundreds of neighbors wearing shiny hats moved alongside the musicians and the dancers, like 14-year-old Miguel Zadquiel, who were leading the procession and propelling the festive spirit. The group of dancers at the head — known as a “comparsa” – are devoted to a specific image of the infant Jesus. Each member wears a long velvet robe, a big drum-like hat and a mask depicting an old man — a costume meant to mock the Spanish conquerors.

The pair – a girl and boy for the 6th posada of the season — playing Mary and Joseph follows the dancers. At the end, the Niñopa, traveling by van, slowly makes its way through the crowds.

Magda Reyes, dressed in pink, walked next to her 7- and 11-year-old daughters. She has attended these posadas since she was a kid.

“We are very devoted to the Niñopa,” she said. “My mom used to bring me here to celebrate him, so now I’m bringing my girls.”

On the final night of Posada season, the procession will reach its destination where the crowd will sing a lullaby for the infant Jesus, once again welcoming the Christ child’s arrival on Christmas Day.

___

Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Protesters gather in front of police headquarters while marching Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Memphi...
Associated Press

Memphis police disband unit that fatally beat Tyre Nichols

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis police chief disbanded the city’s so-called Scorpion unit on Saturday, citing a “cloud of dishonor” from newly released video that showed some of its officers beating Tyre Nichols to death after stopping the Black motorist. Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis acted a day after the harrowing video emerged, saying […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: JAN 29, Prohibition launches

Today in History Today is Sunday, Jan. 29, the 29th day of 2023. There are 336 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Jan. 29, 1936, the first inductees of baseball’s Hall of Fame, including Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, were named in Cooperstown, New York. On this date: In 1820, King […]
22 hours ago
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., is seen in the U.S. Capitol, July 14, 2022, in Washington.  Gallego sa...
Associated Press

Gallego holds first events of Arizona Senate campaign

PHOENIX (AP) — Democrat Ruben Gallego held the first public events of his U.S. Senate campaign Saturday, taking aim at independent incumbent Kyrsten Sinema and casting his candidacy in a patriotic appeal to the American dream. The fifth-term congressman recounted his journey from a poor family in Chicago to cleaning toilets as a Harvard student […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Saturday’s Scores

GIRLS PREP BASKETBALL= Bothell 44, Glacier Peak 40 Burlington-Edison 47, Squalicum 33 Columbia River 53, R.A. Long 28 Entiat 60, Cascade (Leavenworth) 9 Evergreen Lutheran 48, Three Rivers Christian School 26 Hermiston, Ore. 66, Pasco 36 Kamiakin 61, Kennewick 35 Kennedy 49, Bainbridge 42 La Conner 81, Skyview 77 Lakeside (Seattle) 71, Seattle Prep 37 […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Saturday’s Scores

BOYS PREP BASKETBALL= Bothell 64, Glacier Peak 49 Cedarcrest 60, Marysville-Pilchuck 57 Inchelium 71, Springdale 70 Kellogg, Idaho 50, Newport 27 Lynden 69, Lakewood 50 Naselle 63, Winlock 59 Sound Christian 69, Pope John Paul II 34 ___ Some high school basketball scores provided by Scorestream.com, https://scorestream.com/ Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Arizona Republicans pick former Trump official to lead party

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Republicans on Saturday selected former state treasurer and Donald Trump aide Jeff DeWit to be the party’s next chairman, turning to a familiar face with relationships across the fractured party after its worst election in decades. DeWit replaces firebrand Trump ally Kelli Ward, who helped the former president in his efforts […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
In Mexico, posadas bring early Christmas spirit, community