At 6pm on December 7th, on Main Street St. Charles, one of the most beautiful events of the Christmas season takes place. Main Street Church hosts an event that is inspired by an old Spanish tradition: Las Posadas. This is a stylized reenactment of the Nativity story, showing how Mary and Joseph were rejected at every inn until they found a stable to give birth to baby Jesus. Hundreds of visitors, carrying candles (and occasionally candle apps on their iPhones) witness the event in a beautiful, fire-lit procession.
The procession begins on the 1000 block of South Main, so if you wish to see the whole story, begin down there and follow Mary and Joseph north up the street. Mary will be riding a real donkey, and they are followed by all the rest of the Christmas Traditions characters, a choir, and a fife and drum corp. The latter two perform songs as the company walks along slowly, lit by the candlelight. At three or four different places on Main Street, Mary and Joseph stop at a storefront. Joseph asks if there’s any room in the inn, and is told there is not. When they reach the corner of First Capitol and Main, an innkeeper finally tells them there is an available stable, and the procession turns down First Capitol and processes into Frontier Park, where they gather at a life-sized creche on the Jaycee Stage. From there, the rest of the Nativity story plays out, complete with shepherds, sheep, angels, a real baby Jesus, and wise men, interspersed with readings and songs.
Somewhere during the ceremony, the mayor announces the grand lighting of the Christmas tree in Frontier Park. I’m not gonna lie— this upbeat interruption breaks the mood a little, but it doesn’t last long, and the scene becomes peaceful and reverent once more.
After the ceremony, guests are invited to the “Yule Log,” a giant bonfire in Frontier Park, to sing Christmas carols together. It’s a great way to finish the night.
If you are a Christian or just someone who appreciates the Nativity story, this event is a must-see for this Christmas season. I love that this Las Posadas has a real baby Jesus, who fusses and cries and needs to be bundled against the cold— it gives the event a startling and moving reality. My favorite part of the night is when the carolers sing, “O, Holy Night.” What happens when they get to the line “Fall on your knees…” is something that moves me to tears every year.
Here’s the official page for this event— and I hope you’ll take some time out of your schedule to come visit and remember, with hundreds of others, the child born in Bethlehem.
When: December 7th, 6:00pm
Where: South Main Street, St. Charles, Missouri
Tips: Arrive early and leave plenty of time to find parking (I recommend the parking lot near the Lewis and Clark Boathouse, or the City Hall parking garage). Bring a candle and a lighter (the wind often blows out candles). Please don’t worry about bringing a camera— the pictures won’t look good without a flash, and a flash ruins the mood. If you’re an emotional person (like me), don’t forget to pack a tissue!