Many of the Mexicans who make up the largest number of Gainesville’s growing Hispanic population still hold dear to their longstanding “posadas” — more than a weeklong holiday of merrymaking centered around festive foods, fruity drinks, song and the company of family and friends.
The word posada in English means to lodge for a night at an inn or guesthouse. In Spanish-speaking cultures posada conjures up the nativity scene. Joseph and Mary, who is about to give birth to baby Jesus, could not find a room to spend the night in Bethlehem. They accepted the only thing offered to them for shelter that “Silent Night” — a small space in a stable.
Mexicans begin celebrating posadas on Dec. 16 and go caroling to different homes over the subsequent days — culminating on Christmas Eve, or as they call it, Noche Buena.
“The host of the posada will usually make sure there are plenty of tamales, ponche (punch) and sweets,” said 30-year-old Ambar Moreno of Flowery Branch.
Moreno and her 30-year-old husband Jose, would like to see their young children — Idaly, 9, and Javiel, 5 — continue the legacy of their traditional Christmas celebration.
However, one tradition she grew up with as a child that has been lost since coming to the United States is the Three Kings Day celebration, also known as the Epiphany.
As a little girl in Hidalgo, Mexico, Moreno said she would leave a shoe under her bed with a note for the Three Kings before going to sleep. In the morning, the little girl would look under the bed to see the note gone from the shoe and a wrapped present next to it.
“We’ve lost that tradition,” Moreno said. “We’ve adopted the Santa Claus custom here.”
From a business point of view, 43-year-old Ignacio Cortez the owner of La Duranquense — a supermarket that specializes in fresh meats, seafood, Mexican bread, baked sweets and Hispanic staples — said sales always spike in the days leading up to Christmas. The store at 1305 Industrial Blvd., is just off Atlanta Highway
Cortez said the pinatas he has for sale at the store fly off the shelves this time of year. Pinatas are typically made of papier-mache or cloth that are colorfully decorated. Pinatas come in all forms and shapes and are filled with candy and toys.
During posada celebrations, pinatas are hung so that children with sticks can take turns hitting it until the pinata breaks and candy and toys spill out.
“The kids love it,” Cortez said. “We love keeping these traditions alive for our children.”
Patricia Vazquez Silva is the owner of a hair salon at the Vista Al Cielo strip mall, 1784 Atlanta Highway. She said men and women pack the salon because they want to look their best for Christmas and New Year’s Day. She said many bring their children to get their hair done, too.
For Silva, what make the season and posadas festive are the traditional Christmas songs that everyone joins in.
“It’s all to honor the baby Jesus,” Silva said.