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December 11, 2012 > Mission San Jose celebrates Las Posadas

Mission San Jose celebrates Las Posadas

By Praveena Raman

In December 1982, Fremont Cultural Arts Council (FCAC) and the Committee for the Restoration of the Mission San Jose co-sponsored the first Las Posadas, as it is celebrated today, in the Mission San Jose district of Fremont. Andrew Galvan, President, Board of Directors, Committee for the Restoration of Old Mission San Jose mentions that the celebration was started in honor of Father William N. Abeloe, pastor of St. Joseph Church/Old Mission San Jose from 1977-1981, who died in October 1982. This year as in the past, Mission San Jose district will celebrate a traditional Las Posadas from Friday, December 14 through Friday December 21 at 6 p.m. each day.

Las Posadas, which in Spanish means "the inn" or "shelter," is a traditional Christmas celebration that started in Mexico in the 16th century when the Spanish led an expedition to conquer 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, around the winter solstice, at 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 her 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. The Indians paraded under elaborate arches of roses, wearing their finest attire adorned with brightly tinted plumes. Special dishes were prepared, including small idols made of corn paste and cactus honey, huge bonfires burned in courtyards and on the flat roofs of their houses. The missionaries saw the similarities between the Aztec celebration and Christmas and 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. 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.

In Mexico and in other Latin American countries Las Posadas starts on Dec. 16 with a processional led by children as soon as it gets dark. A child dressed as an angel heads the procession, followed by two more children carrying figures of Mary and Joseph on a small litter adorned with twigs of pine. Groups of boys and girls follow the lead figures, then come the adults, and last of all, the musicians. They sing and chant special Posada songs and walk slowly carrying a lighted candle. The processional stops at a previously selected destination, 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 to read the scriptures and sing Christmas carols called alguinaldos. After the carols are sung, everyone is given a basket of Christmas sweets called colaciones along with sandwiches, cookies and fruit punch. Then a very fancy pi–ata, filled with candies and nuts, is broken and the party begins. The nativity is left at the chosen destination and picked up on the next night when the processional begins again.

On the ninth night, Christmas Eve, an impressive posada takes place. On this evening, an image of the Christ Child is carried in by two people who are called the godparents, and laid in His tiny crib in the nacimiento. In some Mexican cities the procession on the ninth day will start in the church courtyard, go through the community and end back at the church. In other cities there is a live enactment of the birth of Jesus with people dressed as Mary and Joseph, shepherds with animals and children giving gifts of flowers and fruits to the infant Jesus. The enactment ends with dancing, tamales and hot chocolate. Due to the Spanish influence in the Philippines, Simbang Gabi, the Filipino version of Las Posadas is celebrated.

If you have never attended the Las Posadas celebration in Fremont, this is an experience not to be missed. This year, Las Posadas at the Mission starts on Friday, December 14 and will be celebrated through Friday December 21, 2012. The procession will begin on the steps of the Mission Museum at 6:00 p.m. on Fridays December 14 and on December 21st. On the other nights, the celebration will start 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.

Las Posadas begins every evening promptly at 6:00 p.m. The schedule is given below:

Friday, Dec 14
(meet on the steps of the Old Mission Museum (at Washington and Mission Blvd., next to St. Joseph's Church at 6:00 p.m.)
Old Rectory
152 Anza St., Fremont.
Anza St. Troubadours
Traditional Christmas Music

Saturday, Dec 15
Mission San Jose Museum Audio/Visual Room
(Washington and Mission Blvd., next to St. Joseph's Church),
Entertainment 'TBA'

Sunday, Dec 16
Dominican Sisters Motherhouse
43326 Mission Blvd., Fremont.
Madrigal Singers
James Burris, Director
Classical and Traditional Christmas songs

Monday, Dec 17
Mission Coffee
151 Washington Blvd.,
Kristin Del Rio
Christmas Mix and More

Tuesday, Dec 18
Holy Family Convent
159 Washington Blvd., Fremont
First United Methodist Church Choir
Religious Christmas music

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

Thursday, Dec 20
Better Homes & Gardens (Dutra Building),
43430 Mission Blvd # 100, Fremont
Band of Gold
Billy Smith and Knuti Van Hoven
Pop and Country music celebrating the holidays

Friday, Dec 21
(meet on the steps of the Old Mission Museum, next to St. Josephs Church at Washington and Mission Blvd. at 6:00 p.m.)
Local History Museum
90 Anza St., Fremont
Center Stage Singers
Knuti Van Hoven, Director
Christmas favorites

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