Este noche es la primera noche de la novena de Las Posadas.”
My Catholic family moved to New Mexico a little more than 50 years ago. New Mexico had not yet been a state 50 years at the time. Thanks to my parents’ emphasis on learning and culture, and aided by the mandatory Spanish classes in Albuquerque’s public school system, we soon became familiar with the cultural practices of the Land of Enchantment. From food to music to dress, we became as completely “Mexican” or “New Mexican” as we possibly could.My favorite traditions were the Christmas ones. The people in New Mexico honored a Mexican tradition called Las Posadas. Brought originally to Mexico from Spain, this is a nine day event celebrated from December 16 to December 24 (“Buena Noche“). Every night, there is a live dramatization of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem. A couple portraying Mary and Joseph go from house to house for shelter and are turned away, until finally they are admitted. There are songs that go with this dramatization–some of which I remember to this day. The songs are sung by los peregrinos, begging for shelter, and are answered by los hosteleros. At the place where they are finally admitted, there is a great party. One feature of the party usually is la pinata for the children. A pinata is a papier-mache effigy on a string, dangled above the ground. It is filled with candies, fruits, nuts and other goodies. A child who is blindfolded (con los ojos cubiertos) holds a stick (en los manos un baston) and swings at the pinata to break it (ya se romper la pinata). An adult usually controls the movement of the pinata by the string. The other children sing cantos para romper la pinata(songs for breaking the pinata).This pageant is repeated every night for each of the nine nights, with different families playing the Holy Family, other pilgrims, and the innkeepers. A different house hosts the party each of the nine nights. In some Catholic countries whose cultures derive from Spain, the pageant involves carrying statues of the holy family instead of live participants. Some form of Las Posadas is celebrated in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Cuba.
Here are some of the songs I recall from Las Posadas in Albuquerque:
En el nombre del cielo os pido posada pues no puede andar mi esposa amada.
In the name of Heaven I beg you for lodging, for she cannot walk, my beloved wife.
Aquí no es mesón, sigan adelante. Yo no debo abrir, no sea algún tunante.
This is not an inn so keep going. I cannot open; you may be a rogue.
No seas inhumano, tennos caridad, que el Dios de los cielos te lo premiará.
Don’t be inhuman; Have mercy on us.The God of the heavens will reward you for it.
Ya se pueden iry no molestar porque si me enfadoos voy a apalear.
You can go on now and don’t bother us, because if I become annoyed I’ll give you a thrashing.
Venimos rendidosdesde Nazarét, yo soy carpintero de nombre José.
We are worn out coming from Nazareth. I am a carpenter, Joseph by name.
No me importa el nombre, déjenme dormir, pues que yo les digo que no hemos de abrir.
I don’t care about your name: Let me sleep, because I already told you we shall not open up.
Posada te pide, amado casero, por sólo una noche la Reina del Cielo.
I’m asking you for lodging dear man of the house Just for one night for the Queen of Heaven.
Pues si es una reina quien lo solicita, ¿cómo es que de noche anda tan solita?
Well, if it’s a queen who solicits it, why is it at night that she travels so alone?
Mi esposa es María, es Reina del Cielo y madre va a serdel Divino Verbo.
My wife is Mary. She’s the Queen of Heaven and she’s going to be the mother of the Divine Word.
¿Eres tú José? ¿Tu esposa es María? Entren, peregrinos, no los conocía.
Are you Joseph? Your wife is Mary? Enter, pilgrims; I did not recognize you.
Dios pague, señores, vuestra caridad, y que os colme el cielo de felicidad.
May God pay, gentle folks, your charity, and thus heaven heap happiness upon you.
¡Dichosa la casa que alberga este día a la Viren pura.la hermosa María!
Blessed is the house that shelters this day the pure Virgin, the beautiful Mary.
Todos: [Everybody sing!]
Entren, Santos Peregrinos, reciban este rincón, que aunque es pobre la morada, os la doy de corazón.
Enter, holy pilgrims, receive this corner, for though this dwelling is poor, I offer it with all my heart.
Oh, peregrina madre, oh, bellísima María. Yo te ofrezco el alma mía para que tengáis posada.
Oh, graced pilgrim, oh, most beautiful Mary. I offer you my soul so you may have lodging.
Humildes peregrinos Jesús, María y José, el alma doy por ellos,mi corazón también.
Humble pilgrims, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give my soul for them and my heart as well.
Cantemos con alegría todos al considerarque Jesús, José y Maríanos vinieron a honrar.
Let us sing with joy, all bearing in mind that Jesus, Joseph and Mary honor us by having come.
The video below gives an idea of what the music sounds like:
And then on the way to the great party, the throng might sing:
Let us march singing
Let us march singing
con gozo y fervor
With joy and fervor
para ir saludando
To go greet
las glorias de Dios!
the Glories of God!
One version of the pinata song is this:
No pierdas el tino,
Mide la distancia
Que hay en el camino
Dale, dale, dale,
No pierdas el tino,
porque si lo pierdes
pierdes el camino
No quiero oro
No quiero plata
yo lo que quiero
es romper la piñata
pa’ los muchachos
que son muy tragones.
La piñata tiene caca,
cacahuates de a montón
Don’t lose your aim,
Measure the distance
That’s on the way.
Hit, hit, hit,
Don’t lose your aim,
Because if you lose it,
You lose the way.
I don’t want gold
I don’t want silver
What I want is
To break the piñata
For the kids
Who are very greedy
The piñata has pee,
Peanuts by the ton!
For more information on Las Posadas, see the following links:
San Felipe de Neri Parish (Albuquerque): Las Posadas
About.com: Las Posadas in the Albuquerque area
The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, Christmas around the world: Mexico
Personal Note: I cannot think of Las Posadas without remembering two very special teachers who brought different cultures into our classrooms long before it was fashionable (or on the other hand, mandatory) to do so: my fourth grade teacher, Theodora Erikson Cooper (1907-2006) and my fifth grade teacher, Nathalie A. Harshman (1907-2001). May God bless their souls forever and ever.