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How to Stage Las Posadas

Don't let the Spanish name fool you: this charming celebration is just as much fun in the snowy North as it is in Mexico and the southwestern U.S., where it?s a highlight of many a family's Christmas season. Las Posadas is a procession that re-enacts Mary and Joseph's search for a place to bed down in Bethlehem ("posada" is Spanish for lodging or inn). After the procession, participants are welcomed to a lively fiesta.

Tips:
There's no reason to miss out on the action just because you live in an apartment building. Las Posadas is just as much fun indoors as out.

In traditional versions of Las Posadas, Mary rides on a donkey led by Joseph, but the duo can just as easily walk side-by-side or ride bicycles. On the other hand, if you?re lucky enough to have a willing burro or pony in your neighborhood, so much the better.

Warnings:
Make sure the candles the children will carry are dripless. For added protection, attach a bobech to each one, just above hand height. You'll find these paper, metal or plastic collars at craft shops and at most places that sell party gear.

Steps:

1. Plan a celebration between December 16 and Christmas Eve. The traditional form takes place over these nine evenings, but you can easily condense the festivities into one evening.

2. Call your neighbors, describe the plan and invite them and their children to take part as processioners, inn-keepers or both.

3. Set a date for the proceedings and determine your route.

4. Assign roles. You'll need a small boy and girl to play Joseph and Mary and other children to dress as shepherds, angels and the Three Wise Men. For extra fun, enlist willing dogs to play the parts of camels, sheep, donkeys and the other animals that gathered around the manger.

5. Pass out candles to the kids and to their parents, who will act as a traveling audience.

6. Go, en masse, to the first house on your predetermined route and greet the residents with a Christmas carol. Then have Joseph ask for shelter for his wife. When the residents turn him away, saying there's ?no room at the inn, invite them to join you as you proceed to the next house.

7. Repeat the process at each house on your route.

8. Finish at your place, where you inform Mary and Joseph that, although your inn is all booked up for the night, they are welcome to sleep in the stable.

9. Usher them and their entourage inside and start the fiesta.