“Ritual is a form of direct knowing, something indigenous to the psyche. It has evolved with us, taking knowing into the bone, into our very marrow.”
―Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow
When I was growing up in Tijuana, México, our neighborhood would celebrate the traditional posadas every December, beginning on the 16th. The neighbors would come together to choose a date when each of them would host a posada and every day, for nine days, we would gather to walk around the streets while praying the rosary and singing carols.
People processed carrying candles and sparklers, and the person leading the rosary was always in the front. Most of the time that was my mom, but I loved it when she couldn’t attend and I got to lead the procession. My grandmother taught me how to pray the rosary when I was six years old and she infused me with the confidence to take on this role in my community. It made me feel so proud to contribute to the celebration in this way.
I never kept count of the people who joined the procession but by the time we got to the hosting home and sang the posada song, the group was twice as large as when we started. Of course, that was because the hosting home always offered coffee and pan dulce, but sometimes they would go as far as having tamales, ponche, or other traditional Christmastime dishes. The procession always ended in a communal gathering, a fiesta, where children played, grown ups talked, and everyone ate.
The last posada, when we celebrated the birth of baby Jesus, was always at my neighbor’s house: it was a big celebration with piñatas, candies, a full meal, and the traditional ritual of singing the baby Jesus to sleep.
Many of us children participated in these festivities; the sense of joy and belonging we drew from them was very deep and strong. It was a time when the neighborhood came together, when people opened their homes to others, and when no one was turned away when the food was served.
This is what rituals do: they’re embedded with a deeper meaning, and they touch our lives in significant ways. Praying the rosary and reenacting the struggle of Mary and Joseph for a place to stay was the outer expression of our faith, but the communal experience of sharing and belonging was the expression of our deep humanity. Every time we opened up ourselves to one another, we were becoming more human without knowing it.
Holy One, guide us to one another. Bring us closer to your mystery when we experience the gift of belonging and connection.