Katrina and I have been working hard to bring our faithful blog readers some ideas and resources for teaching about Mexican Christmas traditions in your classrooms in a respectful, fun and multicultural way. We have both emphasized the importance of not shying away from holidays which are embedded in religion, but rather accepting these as part of our children’s histories and using them to foster delightful and enlightening conversations.
On ¡Mira Look! for today, I want to highlight a few books that would be helpful in the classroom explaining Las Posadas, the traditional Mexican story of Mary and Joesph’s search for an inn. (Click to see information about Las Posadas on our World Wide Web post). The available literature for Las Posadas is geared towards a much younger audience, Pre-K through maybe 2nd or 3rd. Unfortunately, minus one piece I know of, there is not much existing literature for kids much older. Super bonus points if you can provide us some!
- The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola is a gorgeously rich picture book telling the story of Las Posadas through the eyes of Sister Angie. Sister Angie has been organizing Las Posadas celebrations in her town for numerous years and can’t wait to have her niece and nephew-in-law play the lead roles. But what happens when a snowstorm hits the town? The Night is a perfect book for story time. Though some of the language may be a little advanced for the Pre-K learners, older children will get great benefit from the lush pictures and descriptive text.
- Uno, Dos, Tres, Posada! by Virginia Kroll and Loretta Lopez is a very fun and lively bi-lingual counting book centered around La Posada. Preschoolers will love to interact with the teacher on this book as they say, “One!” when you say “Uno!”
- Carlos, Light the Farolito by Jean Ciavonne and Donna Clair tells La Posada from the view of the innkeeper (i.e. the house where on the 9th day, Mary and Joseph can finally take shelter). Carlos’ grandpa always plays the role of the innkeeper…but when his grandfather isn’t home as the procession comes to his door, Carlos must take on the role of the innkeeper. Richly illustrated with quick and engaging text, this book is sure to delight your K-2nd graders.
- A Piñata in a Pine Tree by Pat Mora and Magaly Morales isn’t about Las Posadas, but it is a Latino twist on the traditional Christmas song ‘The 12 Days of Christmas.’ With bright illustrations, bilingual text and translations, A Piñata is sure to delight your young singers. Plus, they have probably heard the song and will be able to sing along.
- The Legend of the Poinsetta by Tomie dePaola tells the little known tale of how Poinsettas (a plant native to Southern Mexico/Northern Central America) and Christmas teamed up. Did you know this tradition derived from Mexico? I didn’t! A beautiful book for Preschool and up.
- Rio Grande Stories by Carolyn Meyer is a compilation of stories about New Mexican culture and popular practices. Though all the stories are written by Meyer, the premise is that they were written by a classroom of kids, thus each story has a different “author.” Chapter 9 is all about the holidays in New Mexico: from Las Posadas, to Luminarias, to Bizcochitos. This book, easy to read for 5th graders and up, is a great collection to add to your classroom as it discusses the various traditions and cultures that shape New Mexico and our holiday celebrations.
I hope utilizing these books to weave Mexican holiday traditions into your lesson plans will help your classroom become familiar with other traditions, cultures and celebrations. At Christmas time in schools, it seems the extent of our multicultural lessons is to include Hanukkah and Kwanza, two very important and fairly well known holiday traditions. It is equally important to broaden our scope to include Las Posadas. In fact, the Las Posadas tradition is very much alive in New Mexico and the Southwest as well as Mexico. Sometimes broadening our horizons may only include a short car drive to Santa Fe to witness Las Posadas, or a trip through a great picture book.
–Tres tomalitos, dos pastelitos and one piñata,