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December 14, 2010 > Las Posadas

Las Posadas

By Praveena Raman

The celebration of Las Posadas has been a tradition at Mission San Jose in Fremont for more than 25 years. While many communities around the Bay Area have a one or two-day celebration, Fremont has always enjoyed the traditional nine-day celebration. Las Posadas begins on December 16 and continues every evening until December 23.

A traditional Latino celebration, Las Posadas is of Spanish origin and features a re-enactment of the birth of Jesus. The celebration includes recitation of prayers (novenas) and devotional songs for nine consecutive days before Christmas Eve. It was introduced in Mexico during the sixteenth century when a Spanish expedition conquered the Aztec empire and Mexico became a Spanish colony. Catholic missionaries who came with the conquistadores found that the Aztecs celebrated the birth of their sun god, Huitzilopochtli, during the last days of December, about the same time as Christmas.

According to the Aztec story, Huitzilopochtli was conceived supernaturally by his mother Coatlicue. His brothers did not believe her and schemed to kill her. Huitzilopochtli came to Coatlicue's rescue and destroyed his brothers with a fire serpent. The Aztecs celebrated his birth from midnight through the following day with singing, dancing, and speechmaking. Special dishes were prepared, including the construction of small idols using corn paste and cactus honey. Huge bonfires were lit in courtyards and on the flat roofs of their houses.

Noting the similarities between Aztec celebrations and Christmas, missionaries used the celebrations to introduce the Aztecs to Christianity. During this time, St. Ignatius Loyola suggested a Christmas novena, or special prayers, to be said on nine successive days before Christmas. A spirit of fun and joyful celebrations soon intermingled with the religious novena, and the nine-day celebration spread beyond the church to the community.

Las Posadas starts with a processional at sundown when a designated person carries the Creche. Carols and hymns are sung until the processional stops at a previously selected destination, one on each of the eight nights before Christmas, and asks for lodging for the night. The people are first denied shelter. They again request lodging and are then invited in and treated to a Christmas concert and cookies and fruit punch. The nativity is left at the chosen destination and picked up on the next night when the processional begins again. This continues for eight nights in commemoration of the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and ends on the ninth night at the mission or church.

All those interested in participating in this historic celebration are invited to gather at 6 p.m. on December 16, on the porch of the Mission San Jose Museum on Mission Boulevard. If you go, bring a warm coat and a flashlight. Carols will be sung while walking to a local business where entertainment is followed by light refreshments provided by the hosts.

From December 17, onward, people are requested to gather in front of the host for that evening for the enactment and festivities. (Please note this change, which is new this year). All gatherings begin at 6 p.m.

Thursday, December 16
Gather at Mission San Jose Museum
43300 Mission Blvd., Fremont
Paula Harrington, Soprano
Cheese Tasters
43367 Mission Blvd., Fremont

Friday, December 17
Knuti Van Hoven
Local History Museum
90 Anza St., Fremont

Saturday, December 18
Anza Street Troubadours
Von Till Law Offices
Old Rectory
152 Anza St., Fremont

Sunday, December 19
Madrigal Singers
James Burris, Director
Dominican Sisters
43326 Mission Blvd., Fremont

Monday, December 20
Connie Chew, Soprano
Olive Hyde Art Gallery
123 Washington Blvd., Fremont

Tuesday, December 21
First United Methodist Church Ensemble
Holy Family Convent
159 Washington Blvd., Fremont

Wednesday, December 22
Kristin Del Rio
Mission Coffee
151 Washington Blvd., Fremont

Thursday, December 23
Center Stage Singers
Knuti Van Hoven, Director
Old Mission San Jose
43300 Mission Blvd., Fremont

This celebration is sponsored by the Committee for Restoration of Mission San Jose and Fremont Cultural Arts Council. For more information, call Laura Diaz at (510) 657-1797 ext.103 or visit

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