Childrens Book Review of The Night of Las Posadas Written and Illustrated by Tomie dePaola

by DerdriuMarriner

Spanish-speaking cultures observe Christmas traditions. They re-enact Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem. Candle-bearers, icon-carvers and music-makers relate “The Night of Las Posadas.”

Re-enactments of las posadas (“the inns”) emerge as much beloved components of traditional Christmas celebrations in Spanish-speaking cultures within:
• Caribbean, Central, North and South America;
• Europe.

They gather people, places, and props together for processing through:
• Rivers, with José y María (“Joseph and Mary”) occupying the first boat, in San Antonio, Texas;
• Streets, with Santa Cruz’s villagers performing spoken and sung roles, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Such processions include daily commitments throughout the nine days culminating in Christmas Eve for communicants in Spain. They involve devilish innkeepers denying the Holy Couple five times, to the crowds’ boos and hisses. They always lead to cookies and hot chocolate at the stable in “The Night of Las Posadas.”

Las Posadas ("Inns") depicts the fruitless search of Mary and Joseph for a room in an inn.

"Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem": 1906 watercolor by William Brassey Hole (November 7, 1846 - October 22, 1917)
The Life of Jesus: Eighty Pictures (1906)
The Life of Jesus: Eighty Pictures (1906)


The Night of Las Posadas begins during Advent rehearsals by mountain villagers for the procession of the inns. Sister Angie directs practice sessions, whose vocalizations include:

  • Boos, hisses, snarls;
  • Dialogue;
  • Songs.

She expects:

  • Her niece and nephew-in-law to portray Jesus’s parents;
  • Two villagers to blacken beards and eyebrows and redden faces, dominate balcony-running, and make red satin capes and caps.

She finds time to:

  • Make Lupe’s and Roberto’s respectively blue-and-white and brown costumes;
  • Show Lupe and Roberto the carving of the Holy Couple made by Santero (religious icon-maker) Miguel Ovideo -- to celebrate her fifty years of sisterhood the previous year -- and placed by Father Vasquez near the altar rail.

But then she gets the flu.


A tradition in New Mexico calls for constructing vigil fires (luminaria) of piñon pine during Las Posadas:

closeup of piñon pine (Pinus edulis) foliage and cones: In addition to New Mexico, piñon pine's native homeland includes northern Arizona, Colorado, eastern and central Utah, Guadalupe Mountains in westernmost Texas, and southern Wyoming.
Placitas, Sandoval County, north central New Mexico


Lupe’s and Roberto’s old pick-up acts up and dies after skidding in deep snow. Guitarists, horn-players, innkeepers, and singers await in Santa Fe’s historic Plaza lit with:

  • Farolitos (paper-bag lanterns);
  • Luminarias (bonfires).

A young lady on a donkey and a young man claim to be:

  • Lupe’s and Roberto’s replacements;
  • Sister Angie’s friends.

They get rejected by five devilish innkeepers. They mysteriously leave after the Palace of Governors’ courtyard gates open. Father Vasquez lets Lupe and Roberto -- who mysteriously and suddenly arrive -- sit near the manger. Back home, Sister Angie simultaneously lights a candle:

  • After checking the Blessed Sacrament’s light;
  • Before praying.  

She observes:

  • Footprints from outside to the altar rail;
  • Snow covering the carving’s figures.


In "The Night of Las Posadas," farolitos (paper-bag lanterns) illuminate the historic plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico:

Farolitos at the 17th century San José de los Jemez Mission Church
Jemez State Monument, Sandoval County, north central New Mexico
Jemez State Monument, Sandoval County, north central New Mexico



New Mexico abounds with local color. The forty-seventh state’s multi-cultural, multi-lingual society becomes fascinatingly festive during the year’s-end holidays. The Night of Las Posadas begins and ends with page-long notes on New World celebrations of Old World customs. It communicates Advent anticipation and Christmas joy to:

  • Ages 4 – 8 and upward;
  • Preschoolers through third-graders and onward.

It draws upon the impressive work ethic of:

  • Tomie dePaola, as artist and author;
  • G.P. Putnam’s Sons, as publishers;
  • Donna Mark and Marikka Tamura, as designers;
  • South China Printing Co. Ltd., as printers.

The artwork -- effectuated in acrylic on handmade watercolor paper -- echoes the text’s message -- set in Stempl Schneidler -- regarding:

  • Hispanic legacies;
  • Holiday contexts;
  • Miraculous events.


The Night of Las Posadas (Picture Puffins) by Tomie dePaola

A miracle is needed to overcome a snowstorm, which delays the lead players for the annual celebration of Las Posadas in Santa Fe.
Tomie dePaola stories



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


Tomie dePaola's signature

personal autograph
personal autograph

Sources Consulted


dePaola, Tomie. 1999. The Night of Las Posadas. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

Farfaglia, Fr. James. 2 December 2014. “Las Posadas -- a Catholic Hispanic Tradition.” Catholic Online: Catholic Life > Advent > Story. Retrieved December 2014.

  • Available at:


the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Farolitos at Loretto During the Christmas Season, at Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico, is ablaze with farolitos during the Christmas season.
Farolitos at Loretto During the Christmas Season, at Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 05/08/2015, DerdriuMarriner
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


DerdriuMarriner on 12/06/2014

Mira, You are welcome. Mexican and Latin American literatures are distinctive in the worlds which they create in readers' imaginations. The journey through their literatures may be challenging because of unfamiliar symbolism but it is rewarding. I hope that you are able to find the time to pursue your interest, book by book.

Mira on 12/05/2014

Yes, I had forgotten about the luminarias :) Thank you so much for spotlighting these customs and cultures! It makes me realize how much I truly want to read more Mexican and Latin American literature.

DerdriuMarriner on 12/05/2014

Mira, It's quite a sight to see the candlelit, sand-filled paper-bag lanterns (farolitos) and the controlled bonfires (luminarias). There's such a sense of ancientness, timelessness, and timeliness in a setting such as New Mexico. It's a new state (just since 1912) with centuries of Hispanic and Native American cultures preceding that event.

Mira on 12/05/2014

The farolitos are wonderful on those buildings.
I understand from your article that it's a tradition to go from one inn to another in reenactment of Mary and Joseph's comings and goings. Hot chocolate and cookies sounds fabulous. Wonderful custom :)

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