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Posada tradition plays out in Hardin

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By Amber Coulter

The porch stairs to an Elizabethtown home were packed Thursday with visitors singing in Spanish.

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Those at the head of the line held a statue of a donkey with the Virgin Mary on its back.

The lyrics were a request to be let in because they didn’t have a place to stay.

They were answered from inside the house with words that meant they couldn’t let the visitors in because they were strangers.

The visitors on the porch sang back that they were Joseph and Mary and were going to have a child, so would the people in the house please let them in.

Those in the house answered they now knew who they were, so the pilgrims should enter.

About 50 Spanish-speakers in Hardin County, many of whom are parishioners at St. James Catholic Church in Elizabethtown, brought international flavor to this Christmas season.

They celebrated posada, a tradition observed in much of the Spanish-speaking world. It remembers the Bible story of Mary and Joseph looking for room in an inn before the birth of Jesus and taking space in a stable when they were unable to find room.

The tradition lasts for nine nights, visiting local homes with a procession and song that ends with mingling and food being passed around a full house.

The event ends locally on Christmas Eve, when children dressed as Mary and Joseph place a representation of Jesus in a manger at St. James.

Organizer Francia Bennett said the tradition was observed locally two years ago, but not last year.

Traditions in Spanish-speaking countries often are about religion and family, and many area residents want to carry on those ideas, she said.

“Last night, we were packed,” she said. “We did not have a place to sit.”

Bennett, of Elizabethtown and formerly of Ecuador, said posada has caught on so much in the area because local Spanish-speakers miss the tradition and want to pass part of their native culture on to their children.

That’s one reason Christina Torres of Elizabethtown brought her children. She said the tradition is beautiful and she wanted her children to be connected to the roots of their father, who is from Mexico.

Leslie Roman, a seventh-grader at East Hardin Middle School, and Veronica Benitez, a seventh-grader at T.K. Stone Middle School, said they enjoyed the way the tradition connected them to their families’ histories and gave them a chance to connect with other members of the Spanish-speaking community.

Leslie has been part of the posada tradition before.

She thought it sounded strange at first, but she liked the event once she participated in it.

“I think it’s really fun how we all get together and do this tradition together,” she said.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenews enterprise.com.