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The best Christmas stories

MexicansPhoto: Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York TimesAmong newspaper and television news reporters, the task of doing a story about how a religious holiday is celebrated ranks only a little above doing a stakeout outside the house of a murder victim's mother. The editors' main purpose sometimes seems to be to prove to religious readers that, yes, we do know what day it is.But there are occasional gems, such as Sam Dillon's "Chinantla Journal" in The New York Times on Christmas Day, "A Mexican Celebration of Christ and Community." The cover of the paper and the most emailed list featured a piece catching up on the doings of the Von Trapp family, but to me, this was the more inspiring Christmas story:

The Christmas season joins people with their loved ones wherever it is celebrated, but in few places, perhaps, does it unite whole villages so thoroughly in communal rituals of music and merrymaking as in rural Mexico.For nine consecutive nights, starting Dec. 16, villages all across Mexico have been re-enacting Joseph and Marys biblical search for lodging. Each nights procession, called a posada, has led townspeople, marching to the strains of a brass band, to a different home, where humble heads of household like Ms. Vargas have fed and entertained the revelers.Santa Claus did not figure in the festivities in Chinantla, and there was no gift-giving. (Most Mexicans exchange gifts on Jan. 6, El Da de Reyes, which celebrates the wise men who took gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child.)

What was the most meaningful Christmas story you saw in a newspaper this week?

About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009).

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Christmas day I talked on the phone with a friend of mine who is back home in Mexico for a short visit. I asked him if he had been to any posadas. He said that he had and that they had been an opportunity for him to visit with his family and his friends. My friend is a poor man and he comes from a poor family. In January my friend will again make the difficult and uncertain trip back to the United States. When he is in the United States, my friend is an undocumented immigrant and he works as a day laborer. Over and over again, my friend's life gives me the opportunity to remember to put the poor at the center of my life because they are the friends of Jesus who made himself one of them.

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