Posadas, a word that means "shelter" or "lodging," is an Advent custom in Mexico. It re-enacts Mary and Joseph's search for lodging as they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The Posadas takes place over nine days, Dec. 16-24, which symbolizes the nine months of Mary's pregnancy. People go from house to house seeking lodging, but the "innkeepers" refuse to let them stay. On Christmas Eve, the travelers are finally welcomed at the last house where they celebrate the birth of Jesus.
The origin of the custom is attributed to St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), who carried statues of Joseph and Mary through the Carmelite Convent in Spain seeking a place to stay. Missionary priests brought the custom to Mexico using real people instead of statues.
Today's families can adapt the tradition using the figures from their Nativity Scene to re-enact Mary and Joseph's journey to the stable in Bethlehem. Start with an empty stable. Place the figures of Mary and Joseph on the other side of the room and move them closer to the créche each day. On Christmas Eve add Baby Jesus, the angels and the shepherds. Then let the Wise Men begin their journey to the créche so they arrive on the feast of the Epiphany. More on Hispanic traditions