Christmas observances in the area range from the solemnity of candlelight to the riotous laughter of breaking piñatas.

The congregation of St. Joseph Catholic Church had a traditional Posadas service Saturday, and it will have Mass at noon Christmas day. Many area churches will have worship services, some with candlelight, on Christmas Eve.

The Posadas are a tradition in Mexico and some Central and South American countries, representing Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter just before the birth of Jesus. Planning and carrying out the Posadas takes a great deal of coordination among neighbors.

Each evening over a period of nine days, ending on Christmas Eve, a group representing the Holy Family goes from house to house seeking shelter. They are refused at the first several houses, until a designated neighbor invites them in. There, neighbors pray and sing, then have food together, and the children break a piñata.

The final night has the biggest party and often ends in a midnight Mass celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Versions of the Posadas are conducted in communities across the United States as well. In Martinsville, the Posadas were done with song and prayer as the congregation walked around different areas outside St. Joseph Catholic Church. At the final station, the group held sparklers as they sang.

Then all entered into the fellowship hall, where they were served hot bowls of pozole, in addition to pizza. Pozole is a pork-and-hominy soup with a spicy broth, topped with fresh sliced radishes, shredded cabbage and squeezes of lime juice. Arroz con leche (a hot milk-and-rice drink) also was served.

Then it was time for piñatas. Children lined up from the smallest to the tallest. Two men stood on chairs, holding high the cord from which the piñata dangled.

As each little child hit the piñata, the congregation sang a song with lyrics that translate like this: “Give it, give it, give it. Don’t lose focus; because if you lose it, you lose the way. Now you’ve hit it once; now you’ve hit it twice; now you’ve hit it three times. Your time has run out.”

They go in turns until the piñata breaks, and candy spills out. When adults tell the children it’s safe (when the stick no longer is swinging), the kids rush to get all the candy they can pick up.

Young children managed to break the first two piñatas, but the third piñata, which was for the big kids, was so strong it took several rounds of each kid giving it only three whacks each to break it.

Christmas Eve services

Tonight, several area churches will hold Christmas Eve services. They include:

  • Starling Avenue Baptist Church, 932 Starling Ave., candlelight and Communion service at 5 p.m.
  • Forest Hills Presbyterian Church, 725 Beechnut Lane, Martinsville, candlelight and Communion service at 5 p.m.
  • Chatham Heights Baptist Church, 1235 Chatham Heights Road, candlelight service at 5 p.m.
  • Mount Vernon Baptist Church, 7174 Mountain Valley Road, Axton, candlelight service at 5 p.m.
  • First Baptist Church, 23 Starling Ave., candlelight service at 5 p.m.
  • Fort Trial Baptist Church, 170 Oak Level Road, Stanleytown, Christmas Eve service at 6 p.m.
  • First Prebyterian Church, 1901 Patrick Henry Ave., candlelight and Communion service at 6 p.m.
  • Smith Memorial United Methodist Church, corner of John Redd Boulevard and Daniels Creek Road, Collinsville, candlelight service at 7 p.m.
  • Mount Hermon Church of the Brethren Christmas Eve service at 8 p.m.
  • First Presbyterian Church, Kings Mountain Road, Collinsville, at 9:30 p.m.

Christmas dinner

On Wednesday, Christmas Day, the annual Richard’s Dinner will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church at the corner of Starling and Mulberry.

In cooperation with Grace Network and coordinated by Scott Norman, Richard’s Dinner has been staged in Martinsville since the 1980s. Norman has been in charge of it for the past 20 years.

Richard’s Dinner served about 2,100 people last Christmas, Norman had estimated on the day of that dinner. About 300 volunteers help prepare and serve a dinner budgeted at about $7,000 each Christmas.

The dinner started in the 1980s, Norman said, with Stuart Axelrod and Wayne Odachowski ran the restaurant Sammie’s, where Hugo’s is now. They served 300 meals that first Christmas. Soon, Richard Sarver, who had a big catering company, got involved, and the meal grew each year.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

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