The group stood outside the door of the Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center media center. In Spanish, they sang, “In the name of heaven I ask you for shelter, for my beloved wife can go no farther.”
Inside, through the door’s window, another group responded, “This is not an inn. Get on with you. I cannot open the door. You might be a rogue.”
The back-and-forth song continued until someone opened the door, and the parents created a procession to the school’s gymnasium for a feast and fiesta.
Here in the school hallway, parents of preschool through second-grade students were re-enacting the Christmas story of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter at an inn in Bethlehem. They were kicking off the nine-day traditional Mexican holiday observance called Las Posadas, and giving teachers a taste of the season as celebrated in their native country.
Las Posadas, which means “the inns” in English, precedes Christmas from Dec. 16 to Dec. 24. In Mexico, customarily, a couple dressed as Mary and Joseph knock on homes designated as inns, singing the song until someone lets the couple in.
In Godfrey-Lee, a majority Hispanic district, the volunteer-led evening event was an opportunity for parents to teach school staff members their traditions.
“We learn from each other about culture and food,” said Leonicia Rubio, an interpreter at the school. “Our parents want to share with teachers our traditions.”
Teaching the Teachers
Dunce Pineda came with her daughters, high-school student Crystal Gonzalez and kindergartner Janely Gonzalez. Pineda said she has fond memories of carrying the Nativity set in Mexico and going from house to house. She likes that the tradition is being carried forward to young people. “I like that the kids get to learn the traditions of Mexico,” she said.
Parents served sizzling homemade dishes and treats including tamales, tacos, sweet bread called concha, Mexican fried cookies called bunuelo, and hot punch called ponche navideno.
“It’s really just bringing people together to build understanding and relationships,” said second-grade teacher Andrea Hall. “This is honoring the strengths our families are bringing to us.”
First-grade teacher Deedee Stasiak said staff members spend every school day with their students, often without knowing some of their treasured holiday traditions. Observing Las Posadas together was a great way to learn more about families and how their students spend the Christmas season, she said.
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful,” Stasiak said. “They feel really special being able to teach us something for a change.”