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Ann Murdy | profile | all galleries >> The Christmas Posadas in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

The Christmas Posadas in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

In the Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico the nine Christmas posadas run from December 16th through 24th. The last posada is held in the house of the padrino (the godfather) of Jesus Christ. These posadas are an expensive undertaking as the individuals who sponsor each posada take on a huge responsibility. These individuals must feed a large group of people from the community, they hire a band to play music, are responsible for bringing the saints from the church into their home for the event and they must have approximately forty floral beeswax candles to accompany the saints in the posada. In order to be selected to hold the posada in one’s home, one must get permission from the authorities of the church. The posadas are a reenactment of Joseph and Mary trying to find lodging in Bethlehem concluding with the birth of the Christ child on December 24th.

Each night a different family sponsors the posada. Late in the afternoon a huge meal is served to all the guests at the posada house. All the invited guests bring flowers to put on the posada altar alongwith a case of beer. Beer and mezcal are served to the guests. It is not unusual to hear the band play such songs as “Jingle Bells” during the meal. After the meal there are piñatas to be enjoyed by the young and old. Inside of the house there is the altar for the posada that holds the statues of Joseph and Mary from the church. Before the saints are to be moved to the next home, people from that home, come into the home where the party is taking place and pray in front of the altar. These people will be sponsoring the next posada. They will transport the saints to their home where the posada will continue. Slowly this group of men and women enter the room as Joseph and Mary are taken off the altar and moved underneath a canopy that is placed on a platform to transport the saints to their next destination. The women line up one by one as they kiss the clothing of Joseph and Mary while making the sign of the cross and placing an offering in a small plate that has been placed in front of the saints. The men follow the women and make an offering as well. At this point, both the men and women pick up the candles to be used for the posada and light them. These candles, which are only made in this village, have a floral wreath attached to them. Four young girls carry the processional float known as an anda out of the house while altar boys carry huge lanterns to light the way in the dark streets of the night. These lanterns will guide the posada to the next home. Two lines are formed, one with the women and young girls and the other with the men and young boys. They will walk in front of the processional float. There are two brass bands, one in front of the anda and the other behind the lines of men and women. The music of these two bands will continue until they reach the next home. Along the procession route fireworks are shot off which adds to the mood of the event. Once the final destination is made, prayers are said and the same ritual is repeated again the next day until December 24th.

When I returned to Teotitlán del Valle in 2009 for the posadas I was in shock when I was given a candle by the host of the posada house and told that I was to be in the posada. The posada house was located very close the the main highway that leads to go back to Oaxaca City or Tlacolula. I was surprised how heavy the candles were. Also, it was necessary to cup one's hand next to the flame so it didn't blow out. The procession to the next posada house was quite a distance as it was located very close to the Palacio Municipal. It was quite an honor to be chosen to carry one of the candles in the posada procession. It was a solemn affair mixed in with the sad music in the front of the line and the more joyous music at the end of the line. I will never forget that night.

On December 24th the altar of the posada now has the statue of the baby Jesus present along with the statues of Joseph and Mary. The individual who takes on the task to host the final night of the posada takes on the greatest responsibility. He is considered to be the godfather of the posada. On the evening of the 24th of December it is his duty to take the procession with the statues of Jesus, Joseph and Mary back to the church to celebrate the birth of Christ. A Misa de Gallo (mass of the rooster) takes place at midnight. On the following day, a fiesta is celebrated at the godfather’s house. A week later, the padrinos of the baby Jesus will go to church on January 1st to donate clothing for the statue of the Christ child. Following this, they will have another fiesta again with food and drink. This next fiesta will be held on February 2nd. This is called El Día de la Candelaria. This fiesta thanks the padrino for his participation in the posada as it marks the end of his responsibility for the festivities of Navidad.

These photos were taken from 1998 - 2000 with high speed slide film and without a flash.
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Ladies with their candles
Ladies with their candles
Joseph and Mary
Joseph and Mary
The Ladies kneelng with the velas
The Ladies kneelng with the velas
Women praying at the altar
Women praying at the altar
Lucio and Antoineta
Lucio and Antoineta
Boys in front of altar
Boys in front of altar
 Two Ladies holding velas
Two Ladies holding velas
Women holding velas
Women holding velas
Posada Altar
Posada Altar
Girls with their velas
Girls with their velas
Ladies with the velas
Ladies with the velas
Ladies in front of the altar
Ladies in front of the altar
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