Celebrate Las Posadas in Mexico!
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
- Unit Plan:
In Mexico and many parts of Central America, people celebrate Las Posadas during the nine days before Christmas. It is a reenactment of the journey Joseph and Mary took to find shelter before the birth of their child, Jesus. In this lesson, children will learn about the celebration and will make a poinsettia placemat. This lesson helps children understand how people might celebrate the Christmas holiday during the same time as they do, but in a different way.
- Develop an understanding of how people in Mexico celebrate Las Posadas.
- Identify Mexico on a world map and understand its geographic relation to the United States.
- Listen to a story about the tradition of Las Posadas.
- Create a representation of a poinsettia.
- Act out the journey, Las Posadas.
- Poinsettia plant
- World map
- Red and yellow tempera paint
- 9" x 12" green construction paper for each student
- Paintbrush for each student
- Paper cup for each student
- Newspapers to cover tables
- Painting smocks
- Paint tray
- Black markers
- Mexican Fiesta music/CD player (optional)
- Piñata for Las Posadas fiesta (optional)
Set Up and Prepare
- Paint cups with red paint and paintbrush for each child on Day 2
- Paint cups with yellow paint for each child on Day 3
- Black markers for each small group
- Set out newspapers to cover the tables prior to painting
- Paint smocks
- Arrange with nine other classes or school offices that you will be acting out Las Posadas
- Invite parents to help celebrate Las Posadas on Day 4. They can set out the poinsettia placemats. Request volunteers to make Mexican sweetbread, flan, or bring in flour tortillas with cinnamon and butter to serve.
- Laminate placemats before the last day
Step 1: Gather the children together and show them the poinsettia plant. Pass it around so they can have a good look. Ask them what they notice-colors, shapes, textures, etc. Explain to the children that the bright red petals of the flower are not petals at all; they are leaves. In the middle they will see a cluster of yellowish flowers called cyathia.
Step 2: Show the children Mexico on the world map. Talk about Mexico's location in relation to the United States. Tell them that there is a legend or story about the poinsettia that comes from Mexico. I like to read The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola. You could also tell them the following legend of the poinsettia: One version goes like this: "A poor Mexican girl had no gift to present at Christmas Eve Services. As she walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy. "I am sure that even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable," said her cousin. Not knowing what else to do, the little girl gathered a handful of weeds. Feeling saddened and embarrassed by her humble gift, she approached the church. Then she remembered her cousin's kind words. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds bloomed bright red, and everyone knew it was a Christmas miracle."
Step 1: In small groups, show the poinsettia plant to the children again. Tell them that they are going to make a representation of the bright red flower. Walk them through the following directions before hand. Distribute a piece of green construction paper to each child and have them put their name in the top corner in black marker. Give each child a brush and a paper cup with red paint. Ask each to paint one hand with the red paint and then press it on the top half of the paper, straight up at 12:00. Ask: How does the paint feel as you cover your hand? Ask each to make three more prints. Assist each in making them at 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00, with the palm prints overlapping. This should create the red leaves of the poinsettia.
Step 1: Display the poinsettia plant. In small groups again, ask each child to recall one part of the story of the poinsettia legend as they dip one finger in the yellow paint and make ten yellow dots in the center of their "poinsettia" to represent the cyathia. When all students in the small group have retold the story, repeat with the next group. Later, laminate for placemats to be used at the culminating fiesta.
Step 1: Show the children the world map and ask a volunteer to identify Mexico. Explain that most Mexicans celebrate Christmas. In Mexico, the people do not just celebrate for one night! Christmas holidays starts on December 16th and last 9 nights. Each night families act out the journey that Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem. They knock on doors asking for shelter (a place to keep warm and dry). At the last place, the families are welcomed in and celebrate with a piñata and fiesta (party). Tell them that we are going to have our own Posada by acting out the journey at our school. Pre-arrange with nine classroom teachers or school offices that you will be acting out Las Posadas. This is a great opportunity to visit people like the principal, nurse, custodian, librarian and the first grade teachers.
Step 2: Act out Las Posadas by visiting the various classrooms and offices. At each stop, have two or three children (so they all participate) knock on the door and ask, "Do you have shelter?" After the eighth location, return to your own class and knock on the door. Parents will have set out the poinsettia placemats with a Mexican sweetbread or flour tortilla with cinnamon and butter. The parents should surprise the children by answering the door and saying, "Yes, we have room. Come in! Come in!" Celebrate with the treats and the piñata. Play traditional music from Mexico.
Supporting All Learners
Some children may need assistance with painting their hand.
- Make a piñata beforehand for the fiesta using a large balloon and paper mache. This can be a group project at a center with a parent volunteer or instructional aide. Simple glue recipe: mix two parts white glue with one part warm water. Stir well. Dip strips of newspaper in the glue mixture and apply it one piece at a time to the balloon. When it is dry, have the children glue tissue paper to it. Cut a small hole at the top to insert candy or healthy snacks.
- Prepare for Las Posadas beforehand and prepare the treats in the classroom with the students and parent volunteers. Make Mexican sweetbread, flan, and tortillas. Incorporate measuring skills.
Ask families to bring in treats for the fiesta and to help with the last stop of Las Posadas.
- Make a poinsettia placemat.
- Participate in a re-enactment of Las Posadas.
- Were the children able to retell the legend of the poinsettia?
- Were the children successful with making their poinsettia placemat?
- Did the children participate in Las Posadas?
- Were the children engaged and on task the entire time?
- How might I do this lesson differently next time?
Teacher Observation: Observe children's fine motor skill coordination during painting. Listen to the oral language skills during the small group retelling of the poinsettia legend.