From small children to seasoned adults, the story of the Holy Family’s journey to Bethlehem and the birth of baby Jesus is a familiar one. It is retold every Christmas season in a tradition that spans all continents, languages and cultures. The Christmas season would be incomplete without the retelling of this story, making it the perfect way to convene a church community to promote immigrant integration as a parish priority.
In the United States, churches remind their parishioners of this journey through sermons, Sunday School class activities and Christmas pageants or plays. In Latin America, communities come together to host Las Posadas Navideñas. This nine-day religious observance is meant to honor Mary and Joseph’s quest for shelter. Every night from Dec. 16-24, neighbors gather in a procession to recreate the Holy Family’s experience. They dress up, sing, pray and celebrate the coming anniversary of the Savior’s birth.
In an effort to bring together its diverse community, Catholic Charities of Denver in Colorado holds a posadas event each year. Students in Catholic Charities’ English as an Second Language class dress up as Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, and everyone sing carols in Spanish. The procession’s last stop, the Marian House Soup Kitchen, is where Mary and Joseph are welcomed inside for an evening celebration. According to Rev. John Toepfer of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Colorado Springs, around 1,400 parishioners in the Denver area hold their own Las Posadas celebrations.
Earlier this month, CLINIC held our annual posadas event on Capitol Hill in an effort to highlight the similarities between the Holy Family’s journey and that of newcomers today. CLINIC believes that immigrants are worthy of the same merciful actions that were presented to the Holy Family that faithful night, and it is our duty, as people of faith and allies, to advocate and uphold the human dignity of all people.
The celebrations by parishes in Colorado and here in Washington D.C. are a few examples of how to bring the community together to celebrate an event that is important to many people regardless of culture or language. To learn more, please visit cliniclegal.org/posadas.