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December 13, 2011 > Las Posadas: A gem of a celebration for the entire family

Las Posadas: A gem of a celebration for the entire family

By Praveena Raman

December ushers in a month of festivity and good cheer. All around, people are getting ready to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and the New Year. As part of the celebrations families and friends also enjoy classical favorites in music, dance and theater depicting stories of the season such as the Nutcracker. In Fremont a traditional cultural favorite, Las Posadas, is celebrated for nine days before Christmas. This year, Las Posadas will be celebrated from December 15 through December 23 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. near Mission San Jose, with classical and popular Christmas music performed each night. The repertoire will include favorites for all ages from little children to adults.

Las Posadas (means "inn" in Spanish) traces its roots back to the Spanish civilization. In the 16th century, Catholic missionaries who had accompanied Spanish conquistadores to Mexico found that the Aztecs celebrated the birth of their sun god Huitzilopochtli during the last days of December, around the winter solstice, at about the same time as Christmas. The celebrations started from midnight through the following day, with singing, dancing, and speechmaking. Special dishes were prepared, including the making of small idols using corn paste and cactus honey. Huge bonfires were lit in the courtyards and on the flat roofs of their houses.

Seeing the similarities between the Aztec celebration and Christmas, they used it to introduce the Aztecs to a new religion, Christianity. During this time St. Ignatius Loyola suggested a Christmas novena, or special prayers to be said on nine successive days before Christmas. This religious novena was also later introduced in Mexico. A spirit of fun and joyful celebrations soon intermingled with the religious novena and the nine day celebration moved from the church to the community; the festival of Las Posadas was born.

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.

For over 25 years, Las Posadas has been celebrated in Fremont at Mission San Jose where the processional would start and proceed to the appointed destination of the day, keeping with the tradition. This year, instead of a procession from the Mission, the enactment and celebration will start at 6 p.m. at the site of the designated host for the evening. Everyone is invited to experience this unique celebration where participants are from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. The schedule is given below:

Thursday December 15
Mission Coffee
151 Washington Blvd., Fremont
Kristin Del Rio
Christmas Mix and More

Friday December 16
Better Homes & Garden
43430 Mission Blvd # 100, Fremont,
Silver Winds Clarinet Trio
Classic Christmas Hymns

Saturday December 17
Edward Jones
43433 Mission Blvd. Suite 102, Fremont
Connie Chew
Classical and Traditional Christmas Carols

Sunday December 18
Dominican Sisters
43326 Mission Blvd., Fremont
Madrigal Singers
James Burris, Director
Classical and Traditional Christmas songs

Monday December 19
Cheese Tasters
43367 Mission Blvd., Fremont
Sharon De Sousa
Christmas past, present and future - Classical and Contemporary

Tuesday December 20
Olive Hyde Art Gallery
123 Washington Blvd., Fremont
Billy Smith and Knuti Van Hoven
Country and Contemporary Holiday Classics

Wednesday December 21
Holy Family Convent
159 Washington Blvd., Fremont
First United Methodist Church Choir
Religious Christmas music, Hallelujah and contemporary classics

Thursday December 22
Von Till Law Offices
Old Rectory
152 Anza St., Fremont
Anza Street Troubadours
Traditional Christmas Music

Friday December 23
Local History Museum
90 Anza St., Fremont
Center Stage Singers
Knuti Van Hoven, Director
Christmas favorites

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