Our Lady of Guadalupe parish celebrates Las Posadas each Advent, with children playing the parts of Mary, Joseph and all the others in the Nativity. Photo courtesy of Fatima and Carlos Acosta

Mexican Christmas tradition is right at home in Toronto

  • December 1, 2012

TORONTO - There’s nothing that makes a novena come alive like an eight-year-old Joseph and a nine-year-old Mary knocking on the door and singing their way into your heart — at least that’s the way it is at the mostly Mexican Hispanic parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Every year the west Toronto parish marks Advent with a traditional celebration of Las Posadas. From Dec. 16 to Christmas Eve children will gather at the tiny church on Weston Road to re-enact Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem, just as their parents and grandparents did back home in Mexico. The children playing Mary and Joseph go from station to station singing.

“In the name of heaven I beg of this inn, my beloved wife can walk no further,” sing the children playing Joseph and Mary. The first answer they get is less than satisfactory. “Get away from here this is no hotel, I’m not going to open the door to some bandit,” sing the people on the other side of the door.

By the end of song the people inside finally recognize Mary and Joseph and invite them in.

Traditionally, Las Posadas was celebrated in Mexican neighbourhoods with children going house to house singing their way into each home and picking up a little candy along the way. Finally on the ninth evening, Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph arrive at the church where they stage a Christmas pageant, attend Christmas Mass and receive more candy.

When the tradition made it as far north as Toronto, at St. Peter’s parish in 1988, it was staged among a small number of Mexican families going house to house. But given how Mexican immigrants are spread out in every part of Toronto, Our Lady of Guadalupe now stages all nine evenings of Las Posadas in the church. That gives everybody a chance to participate, said Las Posadas organizer Fatima Acosta.

The Infancia Missionaria group at Our Lady of Guadalupe (the Mexican equivalent of the Holy Childhood Association of the Pontifical Mission Societies) prepares the children for the annual Las Posadas. Acosta and her husband, Carlos, try to make sure it’s more than just dress-up, old songs and candy.

“The main thing is to try to evangelize through this. We live in a materialist world,” said Carlos.
“Let’s prepare with a prayer. What we’re focussing in on this Christmas is really celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour,” said Fatima.

Our Lady of Guadalupe has been staging the annual Las Posadas, which the Acostas describe as a novena acted out, since 1996. That’s long enough that now some of the children who once played Mary and Joseph are part of the parish youth group who help prepare the children with catechism lessons, costumes and songs for this year’s Las Posadas.

Like other immigrant children, the Mexican kids are growing up Canadian. But they still love their Mexican Advent tradition, said Fatima.

“They enjoy it very much. It’s dress up. It’s treats,” she said. “They’re getting into the spirit of Christmas.”

It’s a spirit of Christmas that goes beyond the mall, said the Acostas.

“We're trying to evangelize the kids so they grow up with the faith,” said Fatima.

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