For so many Napa residents with Latin American roots, the holiday season brings feelings of deep nostalgia and vivid childhood memories of Las Posadas.
Las Posadas, translated as The Inns, is a Christmastime celebration based on Biblical traditions. Neighbors, friends and families reenact a nativity scene from December 16 to Christmas Eve — the same amount of time that the Bible says Joseph and Mary took to arrive in Bethlehem.
It’s celebrated a little differently depending on where you live in Latin America, but the celebration is more than a religious tradition. There’s singing, music, dancing, eating and piñatas.
About 50 partygoers gathered Friday evening in the showroom of the Napa Ford Lincoln showroom on Auto Row.
For Teresa Foster, who has put on a Posada in Napa for nearly three decades, it’s about sharing traditions she practiced in Mexico City with the next generation, and making sure people remember their roots.
It’s also an opportunity to share her culture with non-Latinos during the “magic month” of December, when everyone is nicer, she said. It’s a time to reflect on the year’s blessings and mistakes, and look forward to navigating the next year with the benefit of lessons learned.
“I crave my family who is all in Mexico City, but at the same time I don’t feel sorry because ... I’m doing (the Posada) here,” she said at her Friday night Posada. “And with that, I’m connected with my family.”
Foster began partnering last year to put on the Posada with the Napa County Hispanic Network. President Ricky Hurtado says it’s a great way to thank supporters and donors, while educating others on their culture.
“It’s letting the people and community know that regardless of where everyone comes from, this is home, this is … everyone’s community,” he said.
The night began with music from a guitar trio and song.
Partygoers lit candles and lined up on either side of the showroom’s front doors. The groups sang a call-and-response song that mimicked a Biblical conversation between Mary and Joseph, begging a stranger for lodging.
Foster opened the door for the partygoers outside as the guitar trio began to play “Feliz Navidad”. The crowd sipped atole, a sweet, hot drink made with cinnamon and cornmeal and ate tamales. They crunched on aguinaldos, or bags of hard candies given out during Las Posadas.
The celebration is even more elaborate south of the border, where neighbors decorate the streets and roleplay Joseph, Mary, angels, shepherds and a donkey. Neighbors light candles to illuminate the way for participants to walk down the street to a house, where they sing the song asking for lodging.
For partygoer Maria Cisneros, Las Posadas brings back memories of her family’s “Charlie Brown Christmas tree” and elders regaling her with stories. That’s how Cisneros really got to know her grandmother, she said.
Las Posadas isn’t about presents. It’s about laughter, storytelling, and celebrating friendship and family, Cisneros said.
It takes her back to a time when life was different.
“Life was simple,” Cisneros said.
Las Posadas brings Fernando Espinosa back to good times with family, friends and neighbors. The kids always knew who had the best aguinaldos or piñatas.
His favorite part of Las Posadas?
“It’s the whole event,” he said. “It’s bringing everyone together … I cannot find the words to explain how I feel.”