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Christmas tradition of Las Posadas brings cultures together in Colorado Springs celebration

December 8, 2017 Updated: December 12, 2017 at 11:28 am
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The Hispanic Advent tradition called Las Posadas was celebrated at St. Mary's Cathedral on Friday evening. Dressed as Mary, Olivia Luellen-Sipes lights candles before leading a procession with Joseph and shepherds. In the tradition, Participants proceed from house to house and are turned away until they arrive at the inn. Friday night's procession ended at the Marian House, symbolizing the inn, and the participants enjoyed a festive meal together on Friday, December 14, 2012.(The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

Lo siento. No hay espacio en esta posada.

"I'm sorry. There's no room at this inn."

You may hear those words of biblical significance during Las Posadas celebrations, which reenact the journey of Joseph and pregnant wife Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where they can't find lodging before Jesus is born.

On Friday, Dec. 15, the procession will be reenacted by members of the Hispanic community served by Catholic Charities of Central Colorado. Mary and Joseph, portrayed by children of Catholic Charities' students of English as a second language, will embark from Marian House just before 6 p.m. and knock on three doors in the downtown Colorado Springs neighborhood, searching for shelter. They will be turned away from the first two "inns."

At each stop, carols will be sung in Spanish. Their third knock will be on the door of the Marian House soup kitchen, where young Mary and Joseph - and dozens of people in their tow - will be welcomed inside and invited to enjoy dancing and a Mexican dinner catered by Carniceria Leonela butcher shop, beginning at 7 p.m.

"First and foremost, it's an expression of faith in the immigrant community. It's a custom that originated in Spain, welcoming the holy family to Bethlehem in a prayerful way and a dramatic way," said the Rev. John Toepfer of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. "There's a sense of movement from one house to another, asking for a place for Joseph and Mary to stay the night."

A shepherd, played by 8-year-old Nico Luellen-Sipes, knocks on the door to the Hanifen Center as part of the 1st Annual Las Posadas celebration on Friday, Dec. 16. The traditional Hispanic celebration portrays the journey of Mary and Joseph as they search for a place for Jesus' birth. Mike Christy, The Gazette 

The nine-day observance, which runs Dec. 16-24, is an ancient tradition in Latino countries and Spain.

"It signifies what we do for immigrants in our community - being a welcoming place, offering legal services," said Corey Almond, vice president of community and parish engagement for Catholic Charities of Central Colorado. "It's the idea of Mary and Joseph being journeyers. We make that tie-in to our immigrant brothers and sisters."

Catholic Charities began celebrating Las Posadas in 2011 to raise money. It has become a free event, though a $5 donation is suggested to help cover food costs.

"It's just such a beautiful event, we felt it was important to have the immigrant community participate at no cost. Once you turn it into a true fundraiser, you lose the real feeling," said Rochelle Schlortt, chief communications officer for Catholic Charities of Central Colorado.

All are welcome to attend. Last year's event hit capacity of about 200 participants, Almond said.

Volunteers are needed and can call Almond at 719-866-6510.

"It shows the ways Marian House touches our immigrant community. You bring together immigrants, people of all economic levels and people who can help," said Toepfer, who has been part of the celebration since its inception. "My role is to help share the faith perspective and to explain the custom. I sing. Corey (Almond) plays guitar. And I explain what the whole thing is about at the beginning, reading from the book of Luke."

Most Catholic immigrants are Hispanic, as are about 80 percent of parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, he said.

"There's a beautiful spirituality in it, of welcoming the light of Christ into the world. It's a beautiful tradition that's shared with us," Toepfer said. "Part of the evening, too, is sharing food, dancing and showcasing Hispanic culture."

This won't be the only Las Posadas celebration in Colorado Springs. Toepfer said about 1,400 of his church's parishioners hold their own Las Posadas.

Latino celebrants typically go from house to house, are rejected at the first two, and end up at a house designated as the fiesta site, where everyone enters for an evening of prayer, singing and food.

"It is a beautiful tradition," he said.

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