UPDATED: 2021 Dates for La Pastorela Folklorica and La Gran Posada San Antonio
LA PASTORELA FOLKLORICA – Performance: Friday & Saturday, December 17 & 18, 2021, 7 p.m. (Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center)
La Gran Posada at San Fernando Cathedral – Sunday, December 19, beginning at 6 p.m. (Milam Park)
How do you choose which traditions to start when you don’t have any to begin with? I often read or hear about wonderful family holiday traditions that families have kept alive for generations. We aren’t one of those families.
Thankfully, San Antonio is a city that is full of heritage, culture, and tradition. This is something I am grateful for as I am seeking events that my family and I can participate in during the holidays that shine light on what we believe is the most important part of the holiday: The story of Jesus’ birth.
This year, I chose two long-standing community events to visit and celebrate Christmas with mi familia: Fiesta de Navidad and La Gran Posada. After these events, it finally feels like Christmas!
Fiesta de Navidad
Fiesta de Navidad – La Pastorela Folklórica featuring the Guadalupe Dance Academy at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center is a fun rendition of the traditional Pastorela. Pastorela is a play reenacting the biblical story of sheppards following the star of Bethlehem to find Jesus’ birthplace.
In the story, shepards were confronted by Lucifer who distracted them from their real journey. The archangel was there to protect them and set them on their way. What was special about this performance was the archangel, Lucifer and several other dancers (revealed at the end) were stilt-walking performers. The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center recently hosted a tour of the Nemcatacoa Teatro. This company taught community members and dance members the stilt-walking techniques. The newly trained performers did an excellent job!
The performers danced beautiful folklorico numbers. They were dances from various regions of Mexico: Aguascalientes, Veracruz, Costa de Nayarit, Chiapas, Coahuila and more. In the middle there was even a Flamenco performance. The children dancing brought a smile to my face. It was the final performance of the year so you can see how proud they are of their hard work. The advance dancers’ performances were commanding and beautiful. The dancing isn’t what I loved most about Fiesta de Navidad. I mostly enjoyed watching the families congratulate all the dancers. The show was sold out! Families and friends came out to support their performers. I overheard one mom say to her older child, “I remember coming to see you dance in this performance.” Knowing that this performance was a family night for so many is what I loved most about this show.
La Gran Posada
The San Fernando Cathedral is the oldest standing church building in Texas, founded in 1731 and shortly after the first La Gran Posada was held by the church (and it is still organized by the church). We are not a Catholic family. However, the story of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem on the eve of Jesus’ birth is a biblical story. Walking through the beautifully lit and decorated downtown San Antonio wasn’t the only reason I want to attend. My hopes were that my children would learn a little more about this biblical story.
La Gran Posada started out in Milam Park in downtown San Antonio where a group of angels lead Mary and Joseph and the crowd followed behind. There were five stops at different landmarks throughout downtown: Mi Tierra, Univision Studio, Spanish Governor’s Palace, City Hall and County Courthouse. Just as in traditional posadas, the people outside the building sang a traditional hymn asking to come in and stay. The people inside each building would turn them away.
During the walk between each stop, the crowd sang other hymns (all in Spanish) with the choir who followed immediately after Mary and Joseph and the crowd behind the choir. This went on until we reached San Fernando Cathedral which was beautifully lit with a large Christmas tree out front. Once again the crowd requested lodging, the doors are finally opened and everyone was let in.
Everyone poured in to the historic cathedral where the Father would give a short sermon on the meaning of the posadas. What happened at the moment of entry couldn’t have been a more perfect lesson. The cathedral was full and the volunteers were shutting the doors. I was in the part of the crowd left outside. “Go around to the side doors,” the volunteers hollered to us but the side doors were not opened. We could hear the Father’s voice outside through the large speakers set up. “Open the doors and let them in. Everyone is welcome here. Our cathedral is welcoming to all who have come,” he said. It took a few moments for me to realize what he was preaching from the pulpit, he just enacted. It was simple but meaningful.
Like other traditional posadas, the night ended with a piñata for the kids! We didn’t make it all the way to the end. My chiquito fell asleep much earlier and left after the last song. I was able to snap a photo of it right outside the cathedral.
I’m happy we attended these events. These feel like traditions we could start in our family for the holiday season. I asked my chiquito if he learned anything new after attending La Gran Posada. He said, “God isn’t a fairy tale.” Merry Christmas to me.
(Blog post originally published in 2013.)