PEARL RIVER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - People who speak different languages and have different cultural backgrounds came together to share their common faith in the miracle of Christmas. Las Posadas is a centuries old Latin American Christmas time tradition. Many immigrants have carried on that tradition here in the United States. At a celebration in Pearl River County, everyone was welcome to share in the joy of the Christmas story.
Hymns, prayers and candles. Centuries ago, Spaniards arriving in the New World looked for ways to teach the natives about Christianity and the birth of Jesus. The Spaniards came up with Las Posadas, and that reenactment celebration took root in many Latin American countries.
Leticia Strawn is from Mexico.
"In Mexico, it's a tradition that on Dec. 16, we start with the posadas," said Strawn. "The posadas is were when Joseph and Mary were going to the town of Jerusalem for the census. Along the way, they asked for shelter because Mary was pregnant and it was a difficult time. That is why we celebrate nine days from Dec. 16, to Dec. 25, which is the birth of Jesus Christ."
The faithful break into groups with one group representing Joseph and Mary going door to door asking for shelter. Those representing the inn keepers turn them away twice.
Then, at the last stop, the travelers ask for lodging and are welcomed inside for a big party. Participants said the ceremony is a lesson in the importance of kindness.
"Sometimes at this time, people say don't try to help anybody, and probably we are like these guys who don't like for Mary to come inside. When you see somebody who needs help, sometimes you look another place. Out of sight, but I think we need to think about this right now," Erubiel Sandoval said.
The celebration is about faith, family and lots of food.
"It's a tradition in our families, in our communities. It's a way to get together as a fun pastime and to strengthen our religious and cultural values," said Strawn.
"It's celebrating the birth of Jesus and what he did for us and what it means to us. How much it means to us that we have to get together and celebrate in his name," said Christian Gomez.
The celebration at the Pearl River Blues Blueberry Farm was different from many others like it by having some parts in English. For Natalie Yahr of New Orleans, it was her first time participating.
"This here seems to be wonderful. It seemed like a cool mix of people," said Yahr. "It was interesting that it was in English and in Spanish, because the whole thing is traditionally just in Spanish. Because of the mix of people who are here, it seems like a very friendly family community sort of thing. I'm really glad I got the chance to do it."
"We're bringing a little bit of Mexico to here so we can still enjoy some of the things we did over there and enjoy it with our family, which is most important," said Gomez.
Participants said while piñatas are often associated with children's birthday parties, they actually originate from the celebration of Las Posadas. Piñatas were made in shapes featuring seven points symbolizing the seven deadly sins. Then the piñata would be broken to pieces symbolizing making a fresh start.