Tonight begins the traditional Christmas posadas

A good way to get acquainted better with the neighbors is to participate in the traditional las posadas.

Today marks the beginning of the Christmas tradition that stems from Spain long ago. For nine days a procession of the faithful will circulate through the country’s barrios and neighborhoods to recreate the traditional search by a very pregnant Mary and Joseph for lodgings in Bethlehem.

If there are not enough homes in the area, small candle-lite tables will simulate the homes. That is typical in neighborhoods that have a commercial and residential mix.

The tradition started Monday in Palmares, and worshippers elsewhere begin tonight.

Some Costa Ricans, particularly those with challenging neighborhoods, stay indoors and mark the days with prayers and festivities.

In many cases, children lead the procession. At each home they ask for lodging with a memorized script. They usually are turned away in the same fashion.

Eventually the procession arrives at a designated home where all are admitted for more prayers, and festivities. Unlike Halloween where youngsters are likely to turn up uninvited, the las posadas procession is all scripted, and the final house has the goodies ready

As A.M. Costa Rica has reported the nine days are supposed to represent the nine months Mary was pregnant. And every night has a theme in which a few biblical verses pertaining to the topic are read. When the praying is complete, there is music and singing. The songs are all Christmas classics in Spanish. The participating children and adults represent pilgrims, or peregrinos.

In Liberia, the tradition is supposed to be at least 100 years old. The largest procession there is Christmas Eve with an antique statue of  Jesús being carried through the community.

The 6 p.m. procession is accompanied by whistling, distribution of candies, fireworks and the music of the Banda de Conciertos de Guanacaste. The band will be playing ancient traditional marches, and later it will offer a concert at the Templo de la Agonía.

The las posadas tradition also is strong in México, and some processions may be televised.

Expats here can join the procession even if they are not of the correct religion.

No one will ask for identifications.

This is the antique statue of Jesús that will be in the Liberia procession.

This is the antique statue of Jesús that will be in the Liberia procession.

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