(The little girl is my daughter)
Melinda felt funny in her tummy. Today was the day she had been talking about with all her little friends for a long time. They were to have their “Posada” at kindergarten!
A Posada is a Mexican Christmas custom. It is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Everyone tries to re-enact the events of Christmas day! First there is “la virgen.” Every little girl wants to play the part of Mary. She gets to put on a beautiful long white dress that looked a lot like a dress for a bride at a wedding. Then she rides on top of a donkey through the streets being pulled by Joseph. Behind them come all the little shepherds and shepherdesses dressed in colorful costumes, dancing and singing in praise to the newborn king!
Melinda wasn’t going to be Mary. Even though she secretly wanted to, she would never admit it to her Mommy and Daddy! Actually, she couldn’t be Mary. The honor went to a girl from the third year of kindergarten, and she was only in the second year. Usually the honor was given to one of the daughters of the rich families in town. Every other little girl was jealous of the one who was chosen, but they all knew that there could only be one Mary!
On the other hand, none of the little boys really wanted to be Joseph! Even though he could lead the donkey, and all the parents of the children ran excitedly back and forth to take exactly the right picture of the procession, who wanted to be Joseph, anyway, when all the attention centered on Mary?
Melinda had been waiting for this day all week. Yet she was scared. She could hardly wait to put on the little shepherdess’ dress which she borrowed from the girl next door. Yet she remembered all the excitement of the first dance lesson and what had happened to her. Would the same thing happen now? Could she remember all the Christmas songs (villansicos) she learned to sing?
Alexandra came over to see if Melinda was ready. She was dressed in a traditional shepherd’s costume that dated back many, many years to traditions brought to Mexico from Spain.
Now it was time to go. Mommy, Daddy, Melinda, Matthew and Alexandra all got into the VW bus to head for the school. At the school there was excitement in the air. The children tried their tambourines.
The excitement soon turned to restlessness, as the expected donkey did not arrive on time. Everyone anxiously looked to see if the next person coming around the street corner was leading the donkey for the Posada.
After about an hour wait, the donkey arrived. Now there was a flurry of activity, as they tried to place the little girl on the donkey, holding a baby doll that was to represent the baby Jesus. A police car arrived to provide an escort. Parents lined the streets on either side as the children lined up in pairs behind the blessed couple. Soon they were on their way. The children, assisted by their teachers, began singing the traditional songs of the shepherds.
The procession turned the corner unto Federico del Toro, a main street. It went right past the St. Peter’s church, whose spiral cut an ivory colored slice out of the bright blue sky.
People came out of the stores to watch the parade. Cars that generally were in a hurry to complete their business downtown, had to wait until the slowly moving procession went past. Several old men on the sidewalk stopped, and reverently tipped their broad rimmed “sombreros” as the holy couple went by. Everyone was smiling.
Melinda forgot all about her tummy ache. She knew every word of every song they sang. She felt happy to know that her whole family came to her Posada. Mommy held little Matthew while Daddy took pictures of the parade from every angle.
The procession ended up at the Ramírez house. It was a typical Spanish-style colonial home, with an open courtyard in the middle, where beautiful poinsettia were blooming. Around the courtyard, on the veranda, chairs were set up for the parents to sit and eat and visit. Many parents were already waiting for the procession when it arrived. there was a big cheer for Mary and Joseph. Their part and the donkey’s part were done. Now came the festivities.
Many women had prepared huge tubs of “tamales” and “atole.” Both of these are traditional Christmas foods and go back to the time of the Indians. Both are made with corn, which is the staple in the diet of most Mexicans. The tamales are made with a handful of corn mush, wrapped in husks of an ear of corn. There is either a spicy meat sauce in the middle, or something sweet. The atole is a hot drink that is traditionally made from corn.
While the parents ate and drank their traditional food, the children sat together and continued to entertain with Christmas songs. Then came the event all the children were waiting for. The breaking of the “piñata.” Melinda loved this as much as all the other children, but she was always too bashful to try her luck at hitting it.
Today the piñata was made in the shape of the donkey– just like the donkey that Mary rode on! It was hung on a rope that was suspended between the two sides of the courtyard. Melinda stood at the back of the group of children. How she wanted to try to hit that donkey! But there were just too many people watching, and that made her nervous. Anyway, she knew that if the earthen bowl inside the donkey that was filled with candy would break, there would be such a stampede of children that she was afraid she would be crushed!
“Güerita,” they called to Melinda, offering her the stick. Melinda just could not bring herself to do it. Melinda’s Daddy came to her and tried to get her to hit the piñata with the stick. She was sure she didn’t want to do it.
Suddenly the clay bowl broke. Candy and children flew everywhere. Melinda did not budge from her spot, even though she wanted to participate. It just looked too rough for her. Many of the older boys dove in first, and she was scared of them. It seemed that the parents didn’t care if the big boys hogged all the candy for themselves. Melinda didn’t want any part of that. She secretly wished that just once they’d have a piñata just for girls! Maybe then she would help.
Luckily, the teachers never put all the candy into the piñata. They always had bags hidden that were full of treats. After the dust settled, they would see to it that all the children had some candy, even the shy ones like Melinda.
It was over all to soon for Melinda. They were in the VW bus once again going back through the city to their home. She and Alexandra slumped together in the back seat. All the excitement had made them tired. They had fallen asleep.