LOS ANGELES — Christmas is a highlight for many immigrant communities in the United States, who bring colorful traditions from their countries of origin.
For Hispanics, the nine-day celebration of Las Posadas reenacts the search by Mary and Joseph for a place to lodge as Mary prepared to give birth to baby Jesus.
People in costume join the nightly procession along Olvera Street, the city's Hispanic center. Arturo Najera came to the historic neighborhood with his wife, Rosario, and their family.
"We're happy to join in this community celebration. This is important to all of us Latinos, especially Catholics," said Najera.
Maria Berumen came to the United States from Cuba as a child, but this is her first time seeing Las Posadas.
“I've been wanting to come for years. And this time I found out about it because I saw a post on Facebook," said Berumen.
At the Filipino Christian Church, holiday preparations are also under way. Philippine immigrant Helen Culp says it's a time to celebrate with family.
“I think the Philippines is the most 'Christmasy' country in all the world," said Culp.
Ely Obillo says the star, which announced the birth of Jesus, is the holiday symbol loved in the Philippines, and Los Angeles.
“Made out of bamboo or a wooden frame. And they would cover it every year. Most of the time they would cover it with colored cellophane," said Obillo.
As churches in L.A.'s historic Philippine and Korean neighborhoods display Christmas decorations, Father John Bakas of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral also prepares for the holiday celebration, which extends in his church from Christmas to the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. He reminds parishioners that this is a spiritual celebration.
“Because as we celebrate the birth of Christ in this faraway place 2,000 years ago, the key for us Orthodox Christians is to have Christ being born in the manger of our hearts," said Father Bakas.
In the Greek, Philippine, and Hispanic neighborhoods, Christians of every ethnic background say Christmas is a time of fellowship and community.