Las Posadas brings new Christmas

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 10, 2009

By Hugh Fisher
COOLEEMEE ó The Bible tells that Mary and Joseph found no room in the inn of Bethlehem when they journeyed toward where Jesus Christ would be born.
That story from the Gospel of Luke came to life, in part, last Sunday in Cooleemee.
As part of a day of Christmas festivities, locals took part in Las Posadas, a Mexican Christmas tradition, on the streets of the town.
The Rev. Fred Clarkson, vicar of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Cooleemee, organized the event.
“We’re trying to share the broader Christmas tradition and share the way Christmas is celebrated in Latin America,” Clarkson said.
The celebration took place after the city’s Old-Time Christmas celebration, which featured carols and treats for families.
The group of about 45 who participated in the procession down Church Street mirrored similar processions elsewhere in the world.
“It dates back to the early years of the Spanish in Mexico,” said the Rev. John Tucker, paster of Lebanon Lutheran Church in Cleveland.
Tucker is one of the leaders of an ecumenical Bible study in Rowan and Davie counties.
During the procession, he played guitar and accompanied the singing.
Tucker said that, in a time when there were few priests to instruct the people, these activities were a way to teach the Bible.
“It was a way for the people to be a part of telling the story,” he said.
Las Posadas means “The Inns,” and has its roots in the Spanish Catholic church.
Often celebrated as a festival across several nights before Christmas, residents gather and process from house to house, singing traditional songs.
Cooleemee’s afternoon Las Posadas was very similar, only instead of candles most participants carried sheets with the words to the song in English.
Starting at the Zachary House, the town’s recreation center, about 45 celebrants first walked across the road to the home of Mark and Cass English.
There they sang a song, with Mary and Joseph and their companions standing in the yard asking for shelter.
The response from the singers gathered on the porch was, in short, “Go away!” ó even the suggestion that the Holy Family could be thieves.
But when the procession reached the final stop at Clarkson’s church, the song changed to one of welcome for the Christ child, Mary and Joseph.
A party for the children followed, with a pi ata and more refreshments.
With her daughter, Briseya Garcia, translating, Madai Abarca said she’d taken part in Las Posadas as a girl in Mexico.
“It’s a tradition there,” Abarca said.