Celebrating Christmas in today’s American West essentially follows similar trends found around the country. One notable exception is Las Posadas: a novenario (nine days of religious observance represents the nine month of pregnancy of Mary the mother of Jesus) between December 16 and ending December 24.
The multi-day event’s name is from the Spanish for lodging or accommodations and is based in the New Testament story of quest for shelter by the Holy Family and the subsequent birth of the Christ in a humble stable.
The tradition of Las Posadas began some 400 years ago in Mexico and represents an amalgam to the Aztec winter solstice festival during the month of December (panquetzaliztli) and the Christian observance of the Nativity.
Another Aztec transplant, the Poinsettia, had been a source of dye and a medicinal plant that the Spanish adopted as the symbol for Dia de la Virgen (Day of the Virgin) celebrated on place December 12. Coincidentally, this is date in 1851 that the botanist, physician and first U.S. Minister (akin to Ambassador) to Mexico Joel Roberts Poinsett died. This Jeffersonian man of letters, science and civil service introduced the plant that now bears his name to the United States from south of the border.
Diplomat-scientist Joel Roberts Poinsett may have brought the ubiquitous holiday flower from Mexico, but Mexican piñatas filled with Christmas candy have also become a widely enjoyed custom across America.