Not only for
|Children in the Western Carolina Conference take turns trying to hit a piñata. Photo courtesy of Frank Ramos.|
Latin American churches
By N. Patricia Montaño
Christmas is one of those occasions when expressions of the unity of God's family and kindness are more alive, but it is also when traditions around the globe show the richness of cultures.
The United Methodist Church is a diverse community, which makes it easier to explore and share different Christmas traditions. The procession of Las Posadas -- groups of villagers or holy pilgrims, going from house to house singing carols and looking for lodging for the Holy Family -- are becoming more and more popular. Even though it is a Latin tradition, many predominately Anglo United Methodist churches have adapted the service for their congregations.
The Rev. Roberto Escamilla was among a group of United Methodists who adapted Las Posadas for two services included in The United Methodist Book of Worship (pp. 266-8).
Escamilla also implemented Las Posadas at First United Methodist Church in Ada, Okla, when he started as minister of evangelism in 2000. It has been celebrated every year since. Ada-First celebrates Las Posadas with Latin American food and music, and also with a piñata. Escamilla affirms that this cross-cultural event is well received in his entire community -- which is 100 percent Anglo -- adding, "Let's share and introduce different kind of experiences for Christmas, and let Christ be born in our homes."
Arlington Heights United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, is going to celebrate Las Posadas for the third time in 2006. The Rev. Raúl Gutiérrez, minister of outreach, says, "Our (mostly Anglo) community is fascinated with this celebration. We like to be able to celebrate Christmas with different traditions."
Gutiérrez says this event draws "hundreds of followers, not only Arlington Heights members, but many people from around the area. Sometimes we don't even need to invite people; they are just joining us in the streets."
He says it is probably because of the large Latin population in the area and because of the church's efforts to become "alive," including a live nativity scene setting in a real stable, with real camels.
Although Las Posadas is traditionally a nine-day event, these churches opt for one big day of celebration. Ada First celebrates the Sunday night before Christmas Eve and Arlington Heights celebrates the third Monday of December.
Both churches try to keep the original tradition by journeying around houses in the neighborhood, knocking on the doors of the neighbors, singing Christmas carols and dressing a couple with the costumes of Mary and Joseph, who read from a script: "En nombre del cielo buscamos posadas (In the name of heaven we are seeking for lodge)."
Gutiérrez says this also becomes an event where many of the members are able to show their skills in other languages or sometimes it can be a second-language class.
--N. Patricia Montaño, Bogotá, Colombia, is an intern with Interpreter Magazine and a graduate of Universidad Distrital Francisco José de Caldas in Bogotá.