Catholic Activity: Christmas Plays, Los Pastores and Las Posadas
Acting out the Christmas story in a play is one of the best ways to bring home the story of Christmas. Los Pastores and Las Posadas are Mexican customs that also help provide active participation in the story of the Nativity.
A play is one of the best ways to impress upon the minds of the whole family, especially the children, the beauty and importance of the Christmas season. Of course, if there is only one child in the family a play is an impossibility, but if there are several, even only two, they could depict the Christmas scene. There should be no worry about costumes — the less stage props and costumes the better, because then there is more real piety and love in the play. In fact, simplicity is the ideal.
Los Pastores: Speaking of plays, it is a good idea to reintroduce (if you live in the Southwest) the beautiful community play of Los Pastores. This is a Mexican Mystery Play about the Incarnation of Our Lord. Members of the community are chosen for the parts of St. Joseph, The Blessed Virgin, the Infant, the Three Kings, a good angel and a bad angel. Singing and dancing go on throughout the whole play. The story is about the coming of the shepherds and the coming of the Kings. The entire drama lasts for only about an hour. After Los Pastores is over, the people of the neighborhood (who, by the way, are dressed as shepherds) sing, dance and eat together. There is no reason why this beautiful play should be restricted to the Spanish Speaking people. The script can be obtained in English and any national group would enjoy taking either an active or passive part in the production of the play. The songs are simple and truly beautiful. The play will help the whole neighborhood get into the spirit of Christmas.
Las Posadas (the inns): This Mexican custom is really a Christmas novena, begun on Dec. 16, which is acted out. Nine homes or families in the neighborhood are selected in advance to represent the posadas or inns. Each night of the novena the families taking part form a procession and make a pilgrimage to one of the inns. They carry candles and sing hymns depicting the story of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem. Songs are sung at the door of the "inn". On each of the first eight nights the family of the "inn" sings a little song which indicates that there is no lodging for the Holy Family, and Mary and Joseph are sent away. But before they go, the whole procession, singing, passes through the rooms of the home. On the last night the procession is admitted to the house in which a Christmas crib with a manger has been set up. In many places refreshments have been made a part of the evening's ceremonies in all nine houses. This practice of Las Posadas makes the preparation for Christmas more real.
Activity Source: How to Make Your House a Home by Rev. Bernard Stokes, O.F.M., Family Life Bureau, Washington D.C., 1955