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Las Posadas is a novenario (nine days of religious observance) celebrated chiefly in Mexico and by Mexican-Americans in the United States, beginning December 16 and ending December 24. Los Pasadas is celebrated by Mexicans and Spaniards.
Las Posadas is Spanish for lodging, or , which in this case refers to the inn in the story of the nativity of Jesus. It uses the plural form as the celebration lasts for a nine-day interval (called the novena) during the Christmas season. The novena represents the nine-month pregnancy of Mary, the mother of Jesus celebrated by Christian traditions.
The ritual has been a tradition in Mexico for 400 years. Many Mexican holidays include dramatizations of original events, a tradition which has its roots in the ritual of Bible plays used to teach religious doctrine to a largely illiterate population in Europe as early as the 10th and 11th centuries. These plays lost favor with the Church as they became popularized with the addition of folk music and other non-religious elements, and were eventually banned; only to be re-introduced in the sixteenth century by two Spanish saints as the Christmas Pageant, a new kind of religious ceremony to accompany the Christmas holiday.
In Mexico, the Aztec winter solstice festival had traditionally been observed from December 7 to December 26. According to the Aztec calendar, their most important deity, the sun god Huitzilopochtli, was born during the month of December (panquetzaliztli). The parallel in time between this native celebration and the birth of the Christ lent itself to an almost seamless merging of the two holidays. Seeing the opportunity to proselytize, Spanish missionaries brought the custom of the re-invented religious pageant to Mexico, where they used it to teach the story of Jesus' birth to Mexico's people. In 1586, Friar Diego de Soria obtained a papal bull from Pope Sixtus V, stating that a Christmas Mass (misa de Aguinaldo), be observed as novenas on the nine days preceding Christmas Day throughout Mexico.
While its roots are in Catholicism, even Protestant Latinos follow the tradition. It may have been started in the 15th century by Friar Pedro de Gante. It may have been started by early friars who combined Spanish Catholicism with the December Aztec celebration of the birth of Huitzilopochtli. The Las Posadas text and ritual are also strongly identified throughout the Rio Grande with converso settlers. For more information see Song From a Withered Limb in the journal HaLapid, Autumn/Winter 2015. also found here: https://cryptojewisheducation.com/2016/09/05/song-from-a-withered-limb-las-posadas-and-the-converso-crisis-of-the-16th-century/
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