The singular scent of champurrado, and the sweet taste of pan dulce, and the sound of songs sung for many, many years, songs detailing Mary, Joseph, and the search for an inn, belong to a number of locations throughout the Southwest and Mexico.
The historic quarter, in fact, hosts the annual Christmas Eve presentation over several nights ahead of the 24th of December, and while the singing and strolling and strings (as in the guitars that traditionally accompany those making the walk) are major components, so is a quiet joy and reverence.
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If you've never experienced a Las Posadas evening, know that you can simply choose to stand near and watch, if you don't know the lyrics to the old songs or are in the mood to observe. The candles carried by those participating, and the flicker of light, add to the contemplative, look-within atmosphere of the night.
But the hymns and ballads are threads woven into the larger fabric of the night. There is also piñata breaking, and the eating of pan dulce, and the sipping of champurrado, the cinnamon-piquant, chocolate-y yum drink that's as much a part of Christmas Eve dining, in many Southern Californian households, as tamales, posole, and chile (red and green, of course).
The cost to join Las Posadas or tuck into a shop doorway to watch? It's free, though you'll want to show with some money for treats, dinner, drinks, and all of the good and delicious offerings of the centuries-old destination.
Las Posadas is on nightly from 6 to 8:30 p.m. through Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016.