Standing Up the Baby Jesus

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In the city of Mérida, Venezuela, a fascinating local custom is the La Paradura del Niño, or The Standing Up of the Christ Child. Here the Nativity scenes in homes are particularly cherished; some are table-top size, some are room-size with all of Bethlehem portrayed in the Venezuelan context — the landscape is mountainous and divided by rivers. The figures often look like local people. On Christmas Eve the Holy Family is placed in the scene with the Wise Men nearby and moving closer daily. On New Year’s Day the tradition dictates that the baby Jesus must be moved to an upright position and stay there until Candelaria (February 2). If a friend or neighbour sees this is not done, the baby may be kidnapped and the family who neglected their duty must hold a parandura party for the kidnappers and friends. 

This consists of choosing godparents for the Niño— they will not only bring home the baby in a basket or handkerchief but arrange for the musicians, candles, fireworks and refreshments. The procession consists of first of fireworks boys, followed by the musicians who will be mute until the baby is found, a pair of teens as Mary and Joseph, children as shepherds singing a carol about searching for the baby and, lastly,  the godparents. When the candle-lit procession get to the house where the baby is stored, it is handed over to the kerchief and its god-parents and the joyous music breaks out. All march home joyfully where the party awaits after the baby is replaced standing up. Little kids may offer a poem of welcome, women will say the rosary and then all eat, dance and drink until dawn.

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