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Las Posadas: Welcoming Jesus

Many people host guests in their homes during the holidays, but one North Carolina family had more than the usual houseful when 100 friends came to their trailer as part of a Las Posadas celebration. In the tradition, participants dress as characters from the Christmas story and go from house to house seeking shelter just as Mary and Joseph did. Heidi Robinson followed one church group as they brought to life a Christmas custom that’s more than 400 years old.

You can also view the story en Espanol. 

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(Locator: Apex, NC)

Special guests will arrive tonight at the Rivera’s house...

Richard Rivera, Las Posadas Host Family:  “Mary and Joseph, some kings are coming and also there are many others, angels are coming too.”

…the entire cast of the Nativity and dozens more.

Fernando Rivera: “It’s not really 20, 30 people in the house, it’s more like 100 people in the house”

It may sound like too many to fit in one three-bedroom trailer home...but tonight begins the nine-day celebration called Las Posadas, and the Riveras will host a feast to honor the sacred journey taken by Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.

Host Family: “We have to set up everything, the pinatas. We have the food.”

The Spanish word posada literally means “inn or lodging” and honors the Holy Family’s search for shelter. The Riveras open their home to remember the kindness of the innkeeper who provided shelter. It is a privilege to host the Posada.

Fernando Rivera, Host: “We asked for it, we really asked for it, because not many people get a chance to have it.”

Two-hundred-forty handmade tamales cooked in Ramona’s kitchen...

Richard Rivera: “It is a lot of work.”

…and handmade piñatas meant weeks of late nights for the whole family.

Giselle Rivera: “I do not make them every day. It exhausts me!”

(Woman dressing angels) “No hat? Just the wings. Okay.”

At Apex United Methodist Church, Posadas participants prepare for the journey… shepherds, angels and even a few furry friends.

Boy: “I am a donkey.”

Participant: “One of the three wise women.”

Las Posadas is growing in churches in the United States.  Apex United Methodist has embraced the tradition and held Las Posadas for the last seven years and invited the whole  community.

Ruth Cruz, Apex United Methodist Church Member:

“I have been a United Methodist my whole life, and one of the things I always tell people is that everyone is included.”

The Rev. José Luis Villaseñor (praying): “Thank you Lord for tonight for this Posada when we remember what Christmas is about and about your love toward us and about spreading that love in our community.”

From the church, the procession heads to the Riveras’ neighborhood.

Participants talking:  “I’m an angel.”

Pastor talking to crowd: “Mary and Joseph come and they will lead us, page seven and eight.”

Pastor Villaseñor and the congregation at Apex have written a 30-page guide to help other churches celebrate Posadas in their community.

The Rev. José Luis Villaseñor, Apex United Methodist Church:

“The idea is to have others join us, have others learn about this beautiful gift that is Posadas.”

Participant dressed as Joseph:  “In the name of Heaven, I beg you for lodging for she cannot walk, my beloved wife.”

At this first home, there is no posada...

Pastor’s voice: “The innkeeper says no” (crowd walking away)

…but just up the street at the Rivera’s house… (face peeking out door) ...there is an innkeeper who can’t wait to open the door.

Pastor’s voice:  “Posadas is a beautiful chaos and today is no exception.”

But there is room for everyone.

Fernando Rivera: “Total? With the kids...100 people in the house. I was expecting 20 more.” 

The Rev. Alma Ruiz, Apex United Methodist Church:  “By opening the house to all these people it shows your love and hospitality to the community.”

Full plates of red and green tamales (“Thank you!”), every seat taken...and nine nights of homes filled with the joy of Christmas.

The Rev. José Luis Villaseñor, Apex United Methodist Church:

“God opens his heart toward us and now we are invited to open our hearts and the way we do that is to open our home.”


Participants celebrate Las Posadas for nine nights beginning on December 16 and culminating on Christmas Eve.

For more information on how your congregation can host Las Posadas, contact the Fiesta Cristiana congregation at Apex United Methodist Church in North Carolina.

You can also view this story en Espanol. 

To see all our Advent and Christmas coverage, visit

This story was first published on December 19, 2014.

News media contact: Fran Walsh at 615-742-5458.