Recreating the Full Posada from Backstage
Posada is a Spanish word for “inn,” and los Posadas Navideñas recall the biblical story of the nativity. Much like the European tradition of going house-to-house to sing carols in the early darkened evenings, a local Posada Navideña often begins with a nighttime street procession of locals representing pilgrims. Carrying lighted candles, they follow children dressed up as Mary and Joseph on their search for an inn as they journey to Bethlehem. Singing a special posada song, the pilgrims knock on doors along the way as neighbors emerge to purposely refuse shelter (in song) until the procession reaches a designated house, where the party has been arranged.
As Sonoma County’s gathering place for the arts, LBC itself has become an intrinsic part of the tradition as it offers an accessible and spacious hub to stage all elements of the event safely. LBC’s Posada Navideña begins with a ballet folklôrico stage performance, followed by the traditional procession around the outside of the building. Children dress up, and patrons carry lighted candles, going from one set of doors to another until they reach the party entrance, where LBC staff snuff out the candles. Inside, tables are lined with art projects. Everyone receives a goodie bag with traditional posada treats, including animal crackers, peanuts in the shell, little oranges, and hard candy.
LBC’s Posada celebration is one of the earliest programs proposed and implemented by LBC’s Latino Advisory Council (LAC) in its mission to represent the region’s large Latinx community –its voices and interests – in LBC’s arts and education programming. The event continues to receive local support from LAC members, as well as the City of Santa Rosa, local radio stations, Rancho Mendoza, and Clover Sonoma.
“It started as an add-on celebration in the lobby after the dance performance,” said Melanie Weir, Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement, who worked at the first Posada after-show gathering in the lobby in 2008. “Even that first year, so many people stayed. But each year, it grew, with the performance selling out earlier, as more and more families—regardless of heritage—made it part of their holiday tradition.”
Because of its popularity, by 2009 LBC’s Posada Navideña incorporated the traditional candlelight procession, and we relocated the party to the spacious 6,000 square-foot atrium at the center of LBC facilities to accommodate more arts activities, three piñatas, and refreshments for a larger crowd. It gave us room for more Christmas trees, loaned by LBC business partner Kringle’s Korners, which sets up a public holiday tree market on campus every year.
It also allowed our Mariachi Ensemble to play during the party. In fact, in 2019, the Mariachi Ensemble opened for the mainstage program and has been doing so ever since.
Like many live entertainment programs, LBC’s had to alter its Posada Navideña in the recent past. In 2021, we worked around the pandemic shutdown by presenting a virtual way for families to enjoy the ballet folklôrico performance in their homes. While it meant trimming the procession and party from the program, nearly six times the viewers saw that show than the 1,600+ who can attend the live show each year. A smaller version of the posada tradition returned to the lobby in 2017 because of wildfire damage to the building and in 2019 due to excessive smoke from another wildfire, although patrons were still able to revel in the live stage performance.