With a few days rest after the 12 day observance of the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe, culminating December 12th, December 16th marks the beginning of Las Posadas. For 9 nights, the barrios (neighborhoods) and callejons (small streets) around my house are filled with children singing and shouting, pinatas breaking, and of course, fireworks.
With roots in Catholicism, possibly started by Spanish friars who combined the December Aztec celebration of the birth of Huitzilopochtli (seen as the sun) into the celebration of Christmas, December 16, marks the start of 9 days (possibly representing the 9 months of the virgin Mary’s pregnancy) of nightly visits to the homes of friends and neighbors.
A little like carolers going from house to house in the US, Las Posadas include a procession with participants representing Mary and Joseph and other characters from the nativity scene, visiting the house of a neighbor. They sing a song asking for entry into the “inn”. The resident sings a song acknowledging the travelers and eventually invites the party, into the “inn” where everyone gathers around the nativity scene, prays, and feasts. Individuals may actually act out the parts — Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds — with the person playing Mary actually riding a donkey (or burro).
Children may carry poinsettas. Usually a star shaped pinata ,with candy and fruit hidden inside, is broken as a symbol of faith overcoming the seven deadly sins as represented by the points on the star.
In my observance, though I am sure there are many who are devout in their observance, it appears, as in many cultures and many observances, that Las Posadas, for most, is just another reason to for a fiesta.