AMERICA/BOLIVIA - Live Nativity Scene on Christmas Eve in Tupiza and “Las Posadas” in Concepcion: various aspects of Christmas in a country of many cultures and peoples

Thursday, 23 December 2004

Sucre (Fides Service) - Christmas came to Bolivia from Europe taking on local customs and traditions. Although also in Bolivia consumerism threatens to hide the real meaning of Christmas, a religious feast, for most families Christmas is a celebration for the birth of Jesus. It is a family festivity which reunites families with the return of students from other cities, or fathers working abroad. Bishop Antonio B. Reimann of Ñuflo De Chávez Vicariate sent Fides a description of Christmas in Bolivia.
Tupiza situated south of Potosí, in the western Sub-carni province is a town of rich traditions and is known as the "the jewel of Bolivia". Christmas events begin on Christmas Eve with a live Nativity Scene performed by the local youth group at 9pm on the steps of the Cathedral. Care is taken to render the performance as realistic as possible. Joseph and Mary seated on a real donkey appear in a corner of the Cathedral square and make their way to the Cathedral steps. The shepherds have real sheep and the infant Jesus is portrayed by a real baby.
Midnight Mass starts at 11 and although the Cathedral is large many have to stay outside. At the end of this Mass, and every Mass until 6 January, it is a tradition for the priest to bless statues of the Baby Jesus. As midnight strikes the people in the congregation embrace and exchange Christmas greetings.
In many homes where there is a Nativity Scene the family holds a little ceremony to mark the Birth of the Saviour with incense and candles and singing and dancing. All through the Christmas season front doors are open to show the Nativity Scene and passers by pop in to adore the Babe, in the afternoons mostly children and in the evenings young people and adults. Another tradition consists of Christmas choirs and every year children, young people and adults show great talent.
Christmas celebrations end on January 6 when the Nativity Scenes are taken down. On this day many families have the custom of appointing “patrons” for the next Christmas who will build the Crib, provide decorations and toys and sweets to distribute among the children.
Rural families, mainly poor people, start building Cribs in Advent, and the chalk statues are usually set under a palm tree.
In Concepcion, a city with 70,000 people, the Christmas spirit is felt already on December 8th Feast of the Immaculate Conception the city’s main feast day. The spirit is even more lively when the Christmas novena begins on 16 December. During the novena the daily evening Mass is followed by the traditional "Posada" (Inn) a candle light procession with statues of Joseph and Mary in search of a room at the Inn while people sing Christmas songs. The last Posada is organised early on Christmas Eve with live persons and real animals. The procession makes its way to the Cathedral and everyone enters to see a live representation of the Nativity “Pastorela”, performed by young people and children assisted by teachers. Everyone is present: the Holy Family, the shepherds, the Three Kings and the choir of angels. The Pastoral is followed by Midnight Mass at 11pm(R.G.) (Agenzia Fides 23/12/2004, righe 45, parole 674)