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Mary and Joseph seek shelter in Gold Rush town
Columbia hosts annual Las Posadas event
Las Posadas
Mary and Joseph seek shelter in Columbia State Historic Park during the park's annual Las Posadas event. - photo by Photo by Michael Sharps

For over 30 years, the community of Columbia has come together each December to present their unique take on Las Posadas. The original Spanish holiday tradition re-enacts the biblical story of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter in Bethlehem on the original Christmas Eve. In Columbia, as Mary and Joseph seek shelter they encounter gold mining shepherds, saloon tenders and 1850's fire fighters, along with a host of more traditional angels.

The event was originally created by the Harry Wright family of Columbia and it takes the whole community working together to put on the annual show, said coordinator Leslie Davis.

Many of the volunteer players have participated through the generations, like Trisha Crawford who portrayed Mary in the nativity procession for the first 30 years, from age 16. Each of her five kids have been the baby Jesus — there's always a live baby who plays Jesus — and then she found friends' babies.

The cast of characters includes Mary riding on a mule led by Joseph, angels (both on the street and atop the historic buildings), the three Wise Men, tax collector, innkeeper, gold miners as shepherds, townspeople in 1850s costume, and of course, the baby Jesus.

"This is something that just happens," said Davis about the volunteers all coming together.

"In 2008, it snowed a little and everyone said it was magical, all I know was I on the roof with the angels that year and it was cold and slippery," she said laughing.

Columbia State Historic Park will be decorated for the Christmas season with traditional holiday boughs and wreaths, and the ambiance is enhanced with luminaries on Main Street, lighting the way for the evening procession. The Mirth & Glee Carolers, in period costume, provide music for the event, and on-lookers can also participate by singing Christmas carols by candlelight at the end of the show.

For more information about this free event scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 13, call the Columbia Chamber of Commerce at 209-536-1672. Columbia State Historic Park is located on Main and State streets in Columbia, about an hour and 20 minutes from Turlock going east on Highway 120.