Here's a quick explanation of the Mexican Posadas. Origin, elements and even a recipe for Atole. Starting December 16th and until Christmas, in Mexico and most of Central America, Catholic and Christian people celebrate the Posadas for 9 evenings.
But what is a Posada?
In short, it’s a party, where groups of people (traditionally neighborhoods) gather to do a Pastorela, or re-enactment of the journey made by pregnant Mary and Joseph over the land of Bethlehem from Nazareth, looking for a place to spend the night, and where at the end, their son Jesus was born.
Holding candles and singing a scripted traditional song, the neighbours walk from house to house singing and asking for loggie or “Posada”, a place to spend the night. In a number of houses the potential hosts will refuse them (all this following a traditional song), until one will open its doors and receive them. This is often where the Posada celebration will take place.
For the party, traditional foods and drinks are shared, including tamales (steamed savory corn cakes), pozole (meat and corn soup), atole (sweet drink made of corn starch and cinnamon or fruit - See recipe at the bottom of this blog page), fruit punch and many other foods and variations according to the region.
The Piñatas have center stage during the Posadas. They are made with a decorated clay pot covered with paper (or more so today: paper-maché). The Piñata for the Posadas have the shape of a Star with 7 points (in most cases), and are filled with fruits, nuts and candy. All participants of the posadas (from youngest to oldest) are given a chance to hit the Piñata to try to break it open. This is done blindfolded and for the duration of a small chant, and after being turned around several times to confuse the participant.
The piñatas also find their origins in Europe of approximately the 14th century where pots of clay filled with “goodies” were broken during celebrations. The name piñata derived from the Italian “pignatta”. But some sources refer the origins even further back to the Chinese paper ox filled with seeds, and which used to be beaten open and then burnt in celebration of the Chinese New Year.
The 7-points star shape of the traditional Piñatas are said to represent the following:
- Each point is one of the seven deadly sins,
- the pot represents evil,
- the seasonal fruit, nuts and candy inside the temptations of evil.
- It was said that person with the stick is blindfolded to represent faith,
- the turning, singing and shouting represent the disorientation that temptation creates.
- As the participant beats the piñata, it is supposed to represent the struggle against temptation and evil.
- When the piñata breaks, some say (contrary to other interpretations mentioned) the treats inside then represent the sweet rewards of keeping the faith.
To add another possible melting pot: the Mayas also had a similar celebration breaking a ceramic pot filled with Cacao.
Today, piñatas have lost their religious meaning and are typically used for a fun activity at parties.
Originally, the Posada celebrations and Pastorelas took place during the Aguinaldo Masses that were customary towards Christmas, short after the Spanish conquest and up until the Mexican War of Independence (1810). After that, the mass was stopped but people continued the Posadas tradition in the neighbourhoods and/or private homes.
Curiously, these festivities coincide with the old traditional Aztec celebrations dedicated to their God Huitzilopochtli. Aztecs would decorate fruit trees and the main temple for 20 days (approximately December 6th to 26th).
JOIN US FOR A MINI-PIÑATA DECORATING WORKSHOP:
Visit our Mini-Piñata Workshop throughout December. It's a 1h30 session where you can decorate some ready-made cartapesta (paper-maché) piñatas. You can add tassels or colorful paper fringes, or simply paint them to your liking.
Check out the link to the description and available dates.
HOW TO MAKE DELICIOUS ATOLE
Atole is a traditional corn drink in Mexican cuisine. It is very easy to prepare and goes well with a wide variety of Mexican dishes.
50 ml water
50 g whole cane sugar
50 g corn flour
1 stick of cinnamon
1 pod of vanilla or Vanille sugar
750 ml water or plant-based milk
Bring 50 ml of water to the boil in a saucepan.
Add the cornflour and dissolve with a hand blender.
Sweeten with whole cane sugar (to taste) and blend again until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the cinnamon stick and vanilla.
Add 750 ml water and heat everything slowly while stirring (do not boil).
When the mixture starts to thicken.
Remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla and serve.
Visit our website at www.recrearte.ch for courses related to Mexican traditions, art and more!