December 16th saw the start of Las Posadas,
the nine days of celebration culminating with Christmas Eve, or Noche Buena.
Here in my neighborhood, which is an older and more traditional YucaMaya neighborhood, they still celebrate with posadas, which are fiestas or parties that prepare for the arrival of the baby Jesus on December 25th –
The posadas typically starts with the group gathering and praying a rosary, then part of the group splits off to become peregrinos (pilgrims) going from home to home, singing the traditional posada song – which come from the stories of how Mary and Joseph had to travel village to village seeking shelter. The peregrinos pass around the neighborhood in a procession, complete with costumed Mary and Joseph, palm leaves, candles, etc and sing in front of differing houses. Most of this is prearranged, and the different houses will all deny Mary and Joseph shelter until they get to the last house, which invites the peregrinos in and offers them all a beverage, typically ponche*, and maybe some cookies. It really is a lovely tradition.
*Ponche is a lovely drink, served warm, of fruit juices, sugar cane or pilloncillo, cinnamon, chunks of fruit, etc. I’m sure the recipe changes a bit family to family, and region by region, depending on what is seasonally available.