Language was no barrier

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January 07, 2007|By Glenn Fawcett | Glenn Fawcett,Sun Staff

Several days before Christmas, I was assigned to cover a small community of mostly Guatemalan immigrants practicing the annual Las Posadas ritual in Caroline County.

Las Posadas is the reenactment of Joseph and Mary's search for lodging on the way to Bethlehem. For Latin American Christians, it is a nine-night ritual that starts Dec. 16 and lasts through Dec. 24 each year.

On every night of Las Posadas, participants gather and wander through town, stopping at homes to request lodging by singing a song. Generally, it isn't until the last of several homes that they visit that they are granted entry. Once inside, songs are sung and prayers are said. It is a serious, yet festive occasion and full of the spirit of Christmas, genuine and alive in everyone in attendance.

For me, stepping through the door into the home of the family who played host for that evening's Las Posadas was like an instant passport to what it must be like for their relatives back home in Guatemala, many thousands of miles away, on this same night, practicing this same ritual, hardly changed for hundreds of years. And while I don't speak Spanish or understand the lyrics of their songs, I nevertheless felt very welcome into their evening of celebration and worship.

By contrast, most Americans I know likely couldn't find the time or patience for nine days of such a ritual, especially when there are parking spaces at shopping malls to fight over; expensive gadgets or jewelry to buy, and parties to attend. For these people, it was simply Christmas in its purest form, without the trappings of modern commercialism getting in the way.

A portfolio of other images taken by Sun photographers can be seen at www.baltimoresun.com/viewfinder.

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