Last Christmas, my favorite photo was a selfie with a 5th grader (and her class) because I was so envious of her sweater!
Frankly, only North Americans get this shirt 🙂 Latinos don’t really wear fleece. And we often pronounce “feliz” wrong. (last week, a kindergartener wished me ‘fleas llama-bod’)
This year, I got to celebrate a multi-cultural Christmas tradition in Minneapolis, MN.
My new friends, Pastors Luisa and Patrick, lead a bi-lingual and bi-cultural church there. 12 years ago, the stately St. Paul’s Swedish Lutheran Church was bankrupt and about to close their doors, mainly because the Scandinavian-American immigrants had moved out of the neighborhood.
But then, the new pastors shared a new vision: a congregation that was welcoming to the most recent immigrants in the neighborhood: Latinos.
The Parish Hall now has bilingual art – and the congregation is bilingual as well.
In partnership with a local mask & puppet theatre, the church presents an interactive Posada/ Nativity play. The participants, who purchase tickets, walk to 5 different locations to experience the Christmas journey as explained in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. The entire event personalizes the ancient story, making it real and present.
1. Angel & Mary
First, we went to a banquet hall set up as a temporary theatre. There, a small choir sang in English and Spanish, and an angel appeared to Mary. Lots of dancing!
2. Angel – Joseph
Next, we walked to an open area in a local business building, where a very cute Joseph puppet was met by an even cuter angel, which helped him dress in his hat and poncho for his long journey to Bethlehem. The story was narrated in 2 languages.
One of my favorite quotes from this section was “A person is more than Papers” – Joseph’s response to the requirement to register in Bethlehem. The room where we were for this part of the presentation was decorated to remind us what must have been going through Joseph’s mind as he prepared to travel to Bethlehem; the same kinds of questions Immigrants have always asked.
Where will I sleep? When will I eat? May I be with my family? Will I be safe?
Who will take care of me? Where will I find clean water?
3. Angels – Shepherds/ Magi – King Herod
The third stop was back in the theater. Here, adult angels made up a choir of the heavenly hosts, and adorable tiny stars woke up some grumpy, sleepy shepherds. This part was done mainly through actions and bilingual singing.
Then, while we were in the same space, the Magi appeared to King Herod. He was livid! “Why are those undocumented travelers coming to see me?! I didn’t invite them!” He spoke in English and Spanish, mainly quotes from the Bible narrative.
4. Posada – in the streets
The main characteristic of “posadas” in Mexico is the traveling to houses and asking for shelter. (posada means shelter in Spanish). There is a multi-verse song that they all sing, asking for shelter for Mary and Joseph, and then denying shelter to unknown, poor, dirty travelers. Finally, in the song, someone figures out that by welcoming these peasants they are welcoming Christ into their home, and the Christmas celebration can begin.
In this version, we were walking in temperatures 30 degrees below zero. Seriously, it was dangerously cold. But, we still walked, en masse, down a residential street. Joseph stopped at a house decorated for the holidays, with its lights on – it looked friendly. But we were turned away.
We kept walking – staring at our feet in front of us – trying to listen to the Angel choir, but mainly distracted by our cold feet and the crying babies, and our numb noses.
Then, we were literally stopped in the middle of the street!
Herod was in the middle of the street, surrounded by barricades. “You can’t pass!” he shouts. “I didn’t give you permission to travel here! You don’t have papers to cross!” We stayed there for about 5 minutes, with Joseph asking politely, and the angel choir singing, and Mary freezing, and all of us looking on incredulously.
While we were being shouted at by Herod, and freezing, a group of people came from teh church carrying a banner: “Bienvenidos!” “Welcome!” The church people managed to overcome the barricades and literally tore them down to invite us into the church.
5. Church Celebration!
When we entered the church, it was like a great pageant. Mary & Joseph entered, the baby was born, and all the animals and shepherds and stars and magi came to celebrate.
The singing was in two languages, but it was a lot of “falalalalala” and “Alleluia” while the entire crowd sang and danced and clapped. Once Jesus was “born”, we even celebrated with a very happy live baby who was ok with being the center of attention!
Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! Jesus is born!