Las Posadas, which means “the inns” in Spanish, is a nine-day Christmas celebration that began in Mexico and features daily processions reenacting the search for a place for Jesus Christ’s birth and the repeated rejections suffered by Mary and Joseph.
Although Las Posadas runs from Dec. 16 to Dec. 24, the celebration and its Hispanic cultural traditions will be highlighted during the Wednesday, Dec. 14, gathering at the St. Joseph Activity Center.
Students from Holy Spirit will serve a meal to St. Therese parishioners, said Kathy Verstegen, who teaches a Christian service class at Holy Spirit for high school age students seeking confirmation.
“We want the parish members of St. Therese to feel the confirmation that God loves them very much.” Verstegen said. “Jesus calls us to serve people and to be with people. Hopefully, people at St. Therese will see Jesus coming into their parish. For our students and youth it is an opportunity to see how easy it is to help someone and to realize the benefits of helping someone are larger than the effort they put into something.”
Sixty percent of St. Therese parishioners are Hispanic, said Carlos Herrera, coordinator of the Hispanic ministry at St. Therese.
He said the gathering will “show how (Hispanics) celebrate Advent in another way.”
“We are really happy (Holy Spirit students) will be here. This is the first time children from another parish will be helping us. It’s good for them to experience a new culture during Advent,” he said. “This gathering is the best thing to show we are all one Christian community even though we are many cultures.”
Las Posadas began in the mid-1500s in Mexico when friars introduced the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ at the same time the Aztec culture traditionally celebrated the December birth of its god, Huitzilopochtli.
The Holy Spirit community is introducing and adapting a once-a-month Sunday supper for the Fox Cities community to the St. Therese celebration of Las Posadas, Verstegen said.
“Every fourth Sunday we have a dinner for the community, which might include the homeless, elderly or anyone who needs a meal,” she said. “A bus picks up people and brings them to Holy Spirit for a free meal and fellowship.”
She said Holy Spirit’s Sunday supper committee came up with the idea of extending a helping hand with food and fellowship to St. Therese.
“We want to be part of the St. Therese community and break down any barriers that may be part of our communities,” Verstegen said. “Mary and Joseph had a need for a place to have a baby. The St. Therese community has a need for help to prepare for their Las Posadas celebration.”
A $250 grant from Catholic Charities of Green Bay will go toward buying food for the Dec. 14 gathering, Verstegen said. “Our students will set the tables, serve the food and clean up.”
The Holy Spirit students will join the St. Therese community at the supper table, Herrera said.
“We will both be learning about each other’s communities,” Herrera said.
Prior to the dinner, St. Therese youth will enter in a procession similar to the nine days of processions that begin on Dec. 16 when youth participants are dressed in costume to represent Mary and Joseph and other characters in the search for an inn.
Children are a centerpiece of Las Posadas, Herrera said. “Parents want their children to participate and learn to continue the Las Posadas traditions.”
When the actual Las Posadas celebration gets under way on Dec. 16, Herrera said, the processions will begin at 6 p.m. and last for an hour each day except for Dec. 24, when the procession begins at 7 p.m. and ends with an informal dinner of Mexican food prepared by parish members.
Las Posadas ends with a 10 p.m. Mass on Dec. 24 to symbolize the more traditional midnight Mass ending of the celebration.
“It was hard for Mary and Joseph, who were poor and humble people, to be rejected when they were searching for an inn,” Herrera said. “Right here in the United States people are rejected even today when they are looking for a place to live or to find a job. We welcome help from Holy Spirit Parish to celebrate Las Posadas. We can know more about them and they can come to know more about us and our community.”