This is an especially meaningful time of year for children of the school where our three youngest attend. The school is named after the Nativity and carries out a variety of special celebrations to herald the birth of our Savior. Among them are the special Advent program I’ve written about recently, as well as December “birthday bundles,” the collecting of birthday items — cake mix, frosting, party favors — to package together to be distributed to children who might not have to chance to celebrate their birthdays otherwise. This all in honor of the birth of the most amazing person in human history, Jesus Christ.
Another important December event at our school is the celebration of Las Posadas, a re-enactment of Joseph’s and Mary’s travels to Bethlehem to look for a place to birth their child. Each year at this time, in the days leading up to Christmas, our youngest three ask to be taken to school a little earlier than usual. This year our 10-year-old was especially adamant. “It’s Las Posadas, Mom, and the fifth-graders get to lead this year.” Leading Las Posadas is a special honor given to the oldest students in the school.
Each morning of Las Posadas days, the fifth-graders are released in groups of fours in intervals. The foursomes go knocking on random doors of their younger classmates. To bring authenticity to the drama, all lights in the classrooms and hallways are turned off. The fifth-grade leaders hold a candle to illuminate the path as they move through the halls and choose a door. The students inside wonder with great anticipation: Will it be our door this time?
When the knock comes, those in the hallway say loudly, “Posada! Posada!” To which the younger voices inside respond, “There’s no room at the inn!” Then, those four return to their classroom, and then next group has its turn, three more rounds.
This routine continues each morning until the final day before Christmas break. After recess of that day, a pre-Christmas celebration ensues. Every grade gets a chance at breaking a pinata, each child taking a swing with a stick to try to open the pinata to release the treasures within.
Interestingly, I recently heard someone on Catholic radio explain the tradition of the pinata. He said that originally, pinatas contained seven “horns” or spikes that represented the Seven Deadly Sins. When the people with the sticks beat on the pinata they are symbolizing the beating down of sin. The candy inside, representing God’s grace, is then released and enjoyed.
Right before the final Mass of the school year, the fourth-graders are first to enter the church, where they sit in waiting. The principal, carrying the cross of Jesus, travels down the hallways announcing, “Posada! Posada!” And one by one, the classes begin moving down the hall in a grand procession. When all the children reach the church doors, again, they knock and all say in unison, “Posada! Posada!” The answer inside this time? “Come in! There’s room in the inn!”
All of that waiting, all of that anticipation in the dark ends with the wonderful news that there is, indeed, room for the Christ child to be born; room in a stable, or the Church of the Nativity, and at a school bearing the same name. The re-enactment of Las Posadas ends with a celebratory Mass, after which time the children are released for their Christmas break.
I love how seriously the kids perform these ceremonies, how important these traditions become to them. I love that as the children grow older, their roles become more prominent. Children thrive on tradition. They come to anticipate and enjoy what is coming, and all of these things bring more meaning to the celebrations that are so rich within our Faith.
Q4U: Christmas is drawing ever so near. How spacious is the room at the inn of your heart and soul for Love?