By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published December 20, 2012
Scores of families at the Cathedral of Christ the King recreated the biblical story of the Holy Family searching for shelter. At the celebration children and parents alike sang, shook rattles and other noisemakers as the community filled the Hyland Center room on the first of nine nights of celebrations Dec. 16.
For many, it was an opportunity to revive the tradition of “Las Posadas” and pass on the custom to youngsters.
Andrea Corredor, a native of Colombia, brought her two young children and husband to participate in the singing and merrymaking. She found the Sunday afternoon event at the cathedral after searching on the Internet.
“I wanted to share that tradition with them. This is what Christmas is all about in Colombia,” Corredor said. “It is a beautiful opportunity for us to get together and teach our kids the tradition.”
“Las Posadas” are nine days of prayer and community celebration leading up to Dec. 25, which is called “Holy Night.” The days are filled with prayer, music, songs, breaking piñatas and other games. The word “posada” means dwelling or shelter.
At the heart of the gathering is a retelling of the hardship that St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary experienced trying to find shelter in their journey to Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth.
The Hyland Center’s room was divided into two, with innkeepers and the Holy Family reciting a call-and-response, opening with “In the name of Heaven, I ask for shelter, my beloved wife cannot walk.”
In the front sat the actors portraying Joseph, holding a walking stick, and the Virgin Mary, wrapped in blue. Behind them hung a tapestry of the scene of the Annunciation, where the angel visited the young woman.
This is largely a Mexican celebration, which is the largest Hispanic immigrant group in the Atlanta Archdiocese. Traditionally it is done in a neighborhood as families and friends travel from house to house looking for shelter.
Each night, they are turned away twice, but at the third home the actors portraying St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary are taken in. The group of guests comes into the home and kneels around a Nativity scene, praying the rosary and singing traditional songs of Christmas. According to the Marian Library website of the University of Dayton, the remembrance is a way of spiritually filling with prayer the indifference of the innkeeper to the Holy Family.
Other Latin American cultures have similar celebrations leading up to Christmas with different names.
Imelda Solano, the coordinator for the Hispanic ministry at the Peachtree Road cathedral, said she did not grow up with the Advent tradition in her native Peru, but has adopted it.
“It is just like Our Lady of Guadalupe. I am not Mexican, but I was here on December 11. I was very moved by the celebrations. I don’t need to be Mexican,” said Solano.
Juan Zambrano, an usher with the Hispanic community at the cathedral, grew up in Colombia.
“It brings good memories of what I did as a child. We got together as a family, friends, around the Nativity, singing very beautiful songs about Jesus and his birth,” said Zambrano.
In his native country, the celebration was called “villancicos,” which translates to Christmas carols.
The cathedral Hispanic ministry is hosting the celebrations. And every evening a different ministry at the parish is joining in the festivities. The community the first night welcomed the Colombian Consul General Andres Vargas.
“We try to remember our roots, and celebrate a little bit of our culture,” said Vargas. “Everybody loves it. Most people who live here are separated from family, far away from their country, making this season really important.”