Dr. Trino Sandoval, newly appointed chairman of the Foreign Language Department and head of this year's festivities, explains that Las Posadas (which means "the lodgings" in Spanish) commemorates the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. For nine nights prior to Christmas, actors portraying the couple walk the streets in Mexico with other pilgrims, singing carols and searching for shelter, but finding none. After the nightly processionals, participants party with food, drink, dancing and piñatas.
Sandoval remembers the event from his childhood in Mexico: "It was something we always looked forward to. Everybody went -- from a 5-year-old to a grandmother. You never grew out of it."
In the same cross-generational spirit, event sponsors, Spanish instructors and students -- as well as Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanos del Aztlan and Asociacion Latina Estudiantil -- will hand out candles and sheets of Christmas lyrics in Spanish and Latin, so participants of all ages can sing along as they proceed from Bulpitt Auditorium to Hannelly Center. Afterward, the faithful will partake of Mexican hot chocolate and cookies to fortify themselves for piñata bashing in three categories: children, teens and adults. (At last, a religious ceremony that accommodates our inner 5-year-old.)
Las Posadas has been held at Phoenix College for almost 30 years. The purpose, says Sandoval, is two-fold: "To show students the cultural and historical traditions of Las Posadas and to encourage a sense of community" -- which includes Mexican immigrants who may not otherwise be able to celebrate the familiar Christmas ritual. Plus, Sandoval admits, the fiesta presents an opportunity to showcase the college.