Posadas began yesterday and continues until December 24. A nine-day Christmas celebration in Mexico, it commemorates the journey Mary and Joseph took from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Celebrants reenact their search for shelter (posada in Spanish) by knocking on neighbors’ doors and asking admittance. They might be refused at first, but eventually are invited in, and then the party begin
There are piñatas for the children, and special foods; fireworks, processions with floats creating biblical scenes, and people carrying candles.
In ancient Rome, Winter Solstice (which is coming up on the 21st) was celebrated with a seven-day ritual called Saturnalia, celebrated from the 17th to the 23rd. Honoring Saturn, the god of agriculture and time, Saturnalia was a major carnival that overturned societal norms: masters served their servants, for instance. There were sacrifices, gambling, gift-giving, and continual partying. It had such a reputation that it lives on in our word saturnalian, meaning “a period of unrestrained license and revelry.”