Las Posadas: A Mexican Christmas and Two Crafts for Elementary School
Mexican Christmas Culture
In Mexico, along with some places in the United States, the time between December 16 and Christmas Eve is called Las Posadas. Posada means “lodging.". On each of the nine nights, children and their families re-enact the journey made from Nazareth to Bethlehem. As they walk along from house to house, they are turned away until they reach the house where the evening’s festivities will be held. Then, they are welcomed in and invited to stay for the party.
For children, the highlight of the party is the breaking of the piñata. A piñata is a clay pot shaped as a bird or animal, and it is covered with colored paper and filled with treats and small toys. The piñata is hung from the ceiling by a rope, and the children are blindfolded and given a stick which they use to try and break open the piñata. When the piñata is broken, the goodies fall to the ground and the children all scramble to gather them.
Around the second week in December, children help their families set up nativity scenes. In the markets, the stalls carry Christmas toys, lanterns, figurines, and poinsettias. The children buy candied, nuts, fruits, and other sweets at corner stands for treats
During Las Posadas, homes and outdoor patios are decorated with lighted lanterns or luminaries. Luminaries are bags filled with sand and lit with votive candles. Often, designs are cut into the bags. The luminaries line streets, driveways, and walkways during the celebration.
On Christmas Day, some children may receive presents, but traditionally they must wait until Three Kings Day on January 6. That is the night that the Three Kings visited the baby Jesus and left him gifts. The night before the January 6, the children leave out their shoes and the next morning they find them filled with presents.
To celebrate Las Posadas, children can create mock luminaries.
- Brown lunch bag
- Sponge for sponge-paint technique
- Construction Paper (any color plus yellow for the flame)
Brush thinned white glue on the lower third of a brown lunch bag. Sprinkle sand onto the glue. While the glue is drying, sponge paint a white candle shape onto colored construction paper. Cut around the candle shape and glue it to the bag so that the candle base rests on the sand line. Glue on a short piece of string for a wick and a yellow paper flame. Use the luminaries to line a wall in the classroom.
Foil Christmas Ornaments
- Foil cupcake liners
- Tissue paper
- White glue
- Hole punch
Give the children each a foil cupcake liner and have them smooth it out with their hands. Have them tear small pieces of tissue paper in varied colors, 1 – 1 1/2 inches each. They can then brush some glue on their liners and lay the tissue paper pieces on the glue. Encourage them to leave a little foil showing around the edges of the liners and to overlap their colors. When the glue has tried, punch a hole in the top and make a loop with yarn to hang on the tree.