The ecumenical Christmas festival of Las Posadas made its symbolic trek across the Holy Land Friday night as a homeless Mary and Joseph sought shelter in a cold, dark and unloving world.
The annual ceremony began at the First Christian Church in Perry, with the singing of popular Christmas carols in both English and Spanish. First United Methodist Church pastors Paul Burrow and Rosa Soto led the small crowd of about 20 in bilingual prayers and readings.
A procession followed, with a Perry boy and girl dressed as Joseph and Mary. They walked from the First Christian Church to Second Street, followed by the rest of the congregants bearing lanterns and candles and singing carols.
The procession made three stops along the way, at Ben’s Five and Dime, the Trey Sucher law office and the El Rey Meat Market. They asked for shelter while the congregation sang. The holy family was symbolically rejected at each stopping place, as in the gospel accounts.
At last they found warm and generous acceptance, and a community meal followed in the Fireside Room of the First United Methodist Church. The meal served about 80 people, a significantly larger number than attended the chilly walk downtown.
The nine-day religious ceremony of Las Posadas represents the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus. The procession has been a Mexican tradition for at least four centuries and possibly blends elements of Spanish Catholicism with the December Aztec celebration of the birth of Huitzilopochtli, according to cultural anthropologists.
The Perry Las Posadas ceremony is sponsored by Hispanics United for Perry (HUP). The group works to foster intercultural communication and understanding in Perry and to preserve alive the richness of immigrant and native Latino culture in Iowa.