The Christmas season has arrived and around the world many people are getting ready to celebrate the most joyful holiday of the year.
“Christmas is one of the best holidays because all my family gets together and we enjoy each other’s company,” said CSUSB student Alba Valdez.
Different cultures have their own unique traditions in which they celebrate Christmas.
In Latin America, “Las Posadas” or “hospitality,” refers to the inn in the story of the birth of Jesus.
They are a Catholic tradition commonly celebrated in Mexico and Guatemala.
“Where I live, we have Posadas where the people in the city get together; it is a big tradition,” said Valdez.
Valdez said people walk in the streets praying, dancing, riding horses and carrying the Virgin Mary as if they were actually in Mexico.
The celebration begins on Dec. 16 and ends on the 24, which is a nine-day “Novena” (interval) that represents the pregnancy of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Posadas involve the pilgrimage of Joseph and Mary in their search for a shelter where Mary could safely give birth to Jesus.
During the celebration, people split into two groups in which one goes outside and knocks on the door of the house asking for shelter or ‘posada,’ while the other group members act as the innkeepers.
Both groups hold candles while singing a traditional song called, ‘Las Posadas.’
The Joseph and Mary group start by singing; “En nombre del cielo, os pido posada, pues no puede andar mi esposa amada” (In the name of God I ask you for shelter for my beloved wife can’t go on).
Then the innkeepers reply by singing; “Aquí no es mesón, sigan adelante, no les puedo abrir, no vaya a ser un tunante” (Here is not an inn, keep going, I can not open them, do not be a scoundrel) denying them entry.
The song continues until Joseph and Mary are finally allowed in and both of the groups get to sing together.
Gabriela Resendiz is a CSUSB student that celebrates Christmas by doing Posadas and other traditions.
“A posada must have a piñata,” said Resendiz.
Piñatas are also a tradition during Christmas festivities in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.
They are made of colorful paper mache or clay and can be any shape.
Piñatas are filled with a variety of candy and are held from a rope, while children are blindfolded taking turns trying to break it.
A traditional song is sung as children try to hit the piñata, and when it breaks, children gather the candy.
Nacimientos (births) are one of the most famous traditions in Mexico, Peru, Chile, Paraguay and Guatemala, in which people set up creative Nativity Scenes inside their homes, churches, and public places.
Resendiz’ family always places the Nacimiento under their Christmas tree which is an important tradition to them since they are Catholic.
“During Christmas Eve we usually gather all together as a family around the Nacimiento and sing to “El Niño Dios” (baby Jesus),” said Resendiz.
As people set up religious Nacimientos, in Puerto Rico, people are known for their fun “parrandas or trullas navideñas,” their version of Christmas caroling.
A parranda is when a small group of friends gathers together to “asaltar” (“rob”) or surprise another friend.
People gather at around 10 p.m. to surprise and wake the sleeping friend with music.
Parranderos play instruments such as guitarras, tamboriles, or maracas while singing and are welcomed into the house to celebrate Christmas.
The party goes on for an hour or two and then everyone as a group, including the owners of the house, leave to visit another house.
The group grows bigger as they offer their parranda at several houses during that night.
At the last stop, the homeowner offers them traditional asopao de pollo (chicken soup) and the party is over at dawn.
The idea of Santa Claus has gained much popularity in Latin America yet there are some countries where “El Niño Jesus” (baby Jesus) is the one sending presents to children as they write letters to him.
On Christmas Eve, the family gathers to carry baby Jesus to sleep and children get to open their presents afterwards.
Another form of receiving presents is through, “Dia de los Reyes” (Epiphany).
In some Latin American countries and parts of the United States, “Dia de los Reyes” is celebrated on Jan. 6, which represents the day the three kings gave gifts to Jesus when he was born.
During Día de Los Reyes, people eat Rosca de Reyes, an oval shaped loaf of bread that symbolizes a crown along with a small plastic figure representing baby Jesus is found inside.
The plastic figure symbolizes the hiding of the infant Jesus from King Herod’s troops.
Roscas are adorned with dried and candied fruits to symbolize the jewels that a crown would have.
Traditionally, the person who gets the slice with the figure of baby Jesus must make tamales and atole on “Día de la Candelaria” (Candlemas Day) on Feb. 2.
Some children across Latin America write letters to The Three Wise Men by placing their old shoes with a wish list on top.
Resendiz celebrates Dia de Los Reyes since her parents never believed in Santa Claus.
“As little kids we would put a shirt, shoe, or towel under the tree along with a letter for Los Reyes Magos and they would bring us a gifts the next morning,” said Resendiz.
Although many countries have their own traditions, Christmas is a holiday which people can adapt new customs from other cultures.
The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and generosity which everyone can enjoy despite their cultural differences.