You see it on signs and hear it in songs, but what does it mean? It literally means “Happy Nativity,” or as the Spanish would say, “Happy Christmas.” In Mexico, Christmas Day has no special celebration though many have adopted the American style Christmas with a Christmas tree and Santa Claus.
However, there is a delightful and unique Mexican tradition, beginning on the 16th of December, called the “La Posadas.” “Posada” means shelter or lodgings. The festivities continue for nine consecutive days with candlelight processions and lively parties bringing to mind the events in the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Each night, after dark, a procession begins led by two children carrying replicas of Joseph and Mary riding a burro. As they approach the door of the house assigned to the first “Posada,” the other members of the procession sing the “Litany of the Virgin.” They ask the master of the house if there is lodging for Mary. Those within the house threaten the company with beatings unless they move on. Again, the company pleads for admittance. When the owner of the house finally learns who his guests are, he throws open the doors and bids them welcome. All kneel around the manger scene or "Nacimiento" and offer songs of welcome, Ave Marias, and a prayer.
Then it is time for the "Pinata," refreshments, and dancing. Many families make piñatas, or papier mache figures like horses, birds, or elephants (all kinds of animals). These piñatas are filled with all kinds of candy or toys, and are then held in the air on a string or hung from the ceiling or a tree. The children are then blindfolded and then take turns trying to break the piñatas with a stick. When the candy starts to fall out of the piñata, the kids rush for it. It's a great custom and game.
On Christmas Eve another verse is added to the Ave Marias, telling the Virgin Mary that the desired night has come. Small children dressed as shepherds stand on...