“¡Abre!” If you had been at the Sioux Center Public Library around 6:30PM on Dec. 10, you would have heard a chorus of 30 kids (and maybe some of their parents) shouting, “¡Abre!” (open) as they knocked on doors all throughout the library participating in and learning about the Latin American tradition of the Posadas.

Posada is a Spanish word meaning lodging or inn.  In Mexico, Guatemala, and other parts of Latin America, the Posadas are an important cultural tradition. In these countries, the Posadas refers to a 9-day celebration commemorating Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and their search for a place to stay. From Dec 16 until Dec 24, people gather to go from house to house asking for posada and repeatedly are turned away. Finally on the last night, they are invited in to a party.

On Dec. 10, morning story hour kids and their families joined the evening bilingual story hour families to celebrate and learn about this tradition together. First, bilingual services librarians Ruth Mahaffy and Melissa Hassman led the group in some Christmas songs and rhymes and read a book about the Posadas. Then one child was selected to be Mary and another to be Joseph. The children held faroles (lanterns) as they walked around the library to music of the traditional Posada song while knocking on various office and meeting room doors where parents, staff, and community members awaited to inform the weary travelers there was no room. Finally, children’s librarian Judy Dirkse welcomed the children and their families in to a Christmas celebration. Joyful chatter and pleasant smells filled the room as the families shared Christmas treats with each other. The table was overflowing with delicious food, from flan to chocolate covered pretzels, arroz con leche to Christmas cookies. None of the 59 participants went home hungry. The evening would not have been complete without the piñata and a Christmas craft.

It was a beautiful, fun-filled evening of celebrating, sharing, and learning together. Latino parents had an opportunity to share this celebration not only with their kids, but also with others from the community who had never experienced a Posada before.