Tis the season, but what is a posada?
By Maaike Hoekstra, November 2017. [Maaike is the owner and founder of Mazatlan’s only street food tour, Flavor Teller]
It might seem far away, but Santa Claus is coming to town. The sunny beaches and palm trees might not inspire much of a Christmas spirit, but do as the locals and organize a posada. But what is a posada?
Las Posadas are originally a religious celebration, remembering the journey of Joseph and Mary asking for a place to stay. This ritual takes nine days, from December 16th and ending at December 24th, representing the nine-month pregnancy of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
In Mexico, this Christian tradition brought by the Spanish coincided with the Aztec winter solstice festival. The Aztecs believed that their most important god Huitzilopochtli was born in December. The Spanish missionaries took advantage of the similarity between the two celebrations, to teach the story of Jesus’ birth to Mexico’s people.
Nine nights the ‘peregrinos’ (pilgrims) pay a visit to a different house asking for lodging. There will be special Christmas carols (‘villancicos’), chanting between those who are inside and those who are looking for refuge. Afterwards the ‘peregrinos’ are welcomed inside to enjoy dinner. You’ll surely find tamales, ‘atole’ (a hot masa-based beverage), ‘ponche’ (a warm spiced Christmas punch) and ‘buñuelos’ (crispy, sweet fritters).
Apart of sharing dinner with family and friends, the tradition includes breaking a piñata. Nowadays the piñata is mostly used for birthday parties, but its origins are connected to Las Posadas. The authentic piñatas have a clay core and a seven-point star shape with bright-colored paper. Each point represents one of the capital sins. You’ll get blind-folded, symbolizing the blind faith of the believer. Breaking the piñata means you’ve overcome sin to receive God’s grace, then receiving blessings (candies and fruits). Of course, you don’t have to believe in that to hit the piñata, but that’s the history.
Today, the posadas have mostly become private parties that mix some religious elements with food and drinks. If this sounds like the perfect pretense to get in the Christmas spirit, hit the Mercado Piño Suarez [in Centro] and find everything you need! Don’t worry if you don’t feel like cooking: posadas can be done potluck-style. Tis the season to enjoy posadas, piñatas, potlucks, fiestas, friends and family.