All over the world we celebrate Christmas through rituals. As nations we celebrate Christmas through parades such as ‘Las Posadas’, the nine day celebration currently taking place in Mexico, carol services or nativity plays. What most of us cherish, however, are family rituals such as what time we wake up, what we eat, when we open our presents and whether we watch the queen’s speech of play charades. We take comfort in the repetition of words, songs, acts we learned from our parents and will pass down to our children. It creates a sense of continuity, of comfort and of safety.
The effect of traditions and rituals
But why do traditions and rituals have such a powerful effect on us? Why do we travel miles to be with family? Why do we repeat the same thing each year instead of exploring new ways to celebrate the holiday? Because taking part in rituals allows us to reaffirm who we are and where our place is in our community, our nation and indeed in the world. We use them to understand our socio-political reality and then to project that reality onto a higher, mythological plane. This doesn’t necessarily mean a religious one. Whether we are religious or not, we often consider the greater questions of human existence at Christmas: love, hope, community, family and faith. It is basic human instinct to explore these eternal questions, and at Christmas we often do this through tradition.
Las Posadas – the innkeeper
In Mexico, Las Posadas explore these deeper questions through a nameless biblical hero: the innkeeper. Indeed, posada means ‘shelter’ or ‘inn’. By recreating the story of when Mary and Joseph searched Bethlehem for shelter, and acting out the moment when the innkeeper allowed them to sleep in his stable when everyone else turned them away, they become part of the story, and therefore explore the notion of opening up your home to strangers, and showing love, kindness and charity even when it is inconvenient for you personally; it reminds them of what it means to be human.
All over the world are modern day innkeepers. Homeless charities, orphanages, foster parents, rehab centres, policemen, churches and individuals who open their doors to people everyone else has turned away. As we celebrate the Posadas this week at Misión México, we want to thank the innkeepers of this world for reminding us what it means to be human. We are immensely proud of Pam and Alan who open their home to children in Tapachula Mexico who have nowhere safe to go.
There are thousands of innkeepers all over the world; we would love to hear your story this Christmas.