It’s the Holidays! The time of year where we all feel a little more festive and ready to participate in time-honored traditions that we cherish and have been passed down from generation to generation. The time of year where we remember traditions our loved ones shared with us and recipes we hold dear to our hearts. The time of year where Latinos go big or go home because there’s no such thing as a small gathering in a Latino family. The food, the music, the games, there’s nothing like our celebrations. Below are just a few traditions that we add our special touches to.
It’s not Christmas if tamales are not on the menu. The yearly gathering with your Abuelita, Mama, Tia’s, cousins, is a tradition passed down from generation to generation to roll up your sleeves and get to cooking to make those thousand tamales your family alone can eat, lol. Even a popular grocery chain in Texas, HEB, recognizes this popular tradition by highlighting a commercial on it that has to be the cutest depiction of getting together with your primas to make tamales. Whether they are chicken, pork, bean, and cheese, or even sweet tamales, they are all mouth-watering and delicious!
Do we need a better excuse to do a little shopping? Moms and Dads everywhere hit the streets to get those discounts on that must-have toy of the year for their kids. In some cases, it’s become a family affair with friends and family hitting the streets at the crack of dawn on Black Friday to get all the shopping done. Some sporting matching cute holiday-inspired t-shirt as they hit the mall for those one-of-kind deals you can only get if your there between 5-6 a.m. What better way to work off all those calories from Thanksgiving and get in all those steps.
Decorating the house together has become a time-honored tradition as you pull out all those larger than life yard ornaments, the tangled lights, and get ready to out-shine your neighbor’s decorations. I mean ABC even has a show dedicated to it called The Great Christmas Light Fight, where folks across America compete for the ultimate bragging rights of having the most extreme and spectacular light display for Christmas. They even get a Light Fight trophy. You may not get a trophy for your efforts, but you will definitely get bragging rights for having the best-decorated house on the block.
Playing Christmas Music
Who can’t wait for the 24/7 rotation of all your favorite Christmas songs to listen to on your favorite radio station? The minute the clock strikes midnight on Thanksgiving it’s on! BAM — Christmas jams all day long. There is no better epitome of a Christmas song than José Feliciano’s widely popular “Feliz Navidad” to welcome the Christmas season in. Growing up, my momma always had that song playing in the background as she decorated, so it’s only natural it’s my all-time favorite. Who can’t help but light up when they hear those festive lyrics that seem to never end, and join in with the signature, Ahaaa!
If you are making tamales, then you’re making the signature Mexican Hot Chocolate drink of Latinos-Champurrado! None of this Swiss Miss or store-bought brand. You gather all the delicious ingredients, whip them together, and voila! The best hot chocolate ever to warm you up on those cold winter nights. The chocolate-based atole is a warm and thick Mexican beverage, prepared with masa de maíz, masa harina, or corn flour, piloncillo, water or milk, sugar, and cinnamon. A hearty drink to add with any after-dinner dessert you serve. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Abuelita chocolate, but there’s something about a nice homemade Champurrado to warm you up.
Christmas is the time of year when you pull out all the stops and whip out those favorite recipes passed down to you from Abuelita to bake and share with family and friends. Time-honored recipes that are special to your family and made with love. Mexican Wedding Cookies (Polvorones) come in a variety of shapes, flavors, colors, but they are all delicious. A popular Xmas treat found at almost any Latino party. Melts in your mouth, cannot just eat one, kind of cookie. Let’s not forget Buñuelos, and Churros, to go with that Champurrado for the perfect late-night snack.
No Latino party is complete without a late-night round of Lotería to play with all the Familia that stopped by to celebrate the Holidays. It can get very competitive, especially if you are playing for money. Get those frijoles ready to use as markers when you play. The best is when you play the whole card for the grand prize. This traditional game, much like bingo, has changed over the years with Millennial Lotería now available to make the game even more interesting while starting some interesting conversation about some of the cards like El Twitter, El Yoga, El Drone. There’s also La Reina Lotería for all those Selena fans out there.
Watching Christmas Movies
We don’t have too many Christmas movies with Latino themes but “Nothing Like the Holidays” has become an old favorite of mine that I pop in the DVD player to watch every Christmas. I have to admit Hallmark has some round the clock feel-good Christmas movies that inspire you to get up and start decorating, baking, and wanting to visit a quaint little town that holds annual Christmas festivals with snow everywhere. Where everybody is welcoming and friendly and gathers at the neighborhood Christmas store or the family-owned restaurant that serves up the best home-cooked meals. Even Oprah’s gotten in on the Holiday movie genre debuting several new Christmas-themed movies this year.
With Christmas comes the anticipation of participating in a long-standing tradition of celebrating Las Posadas. A Latino tradition celebrated mostly in Latin America, Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, and by Latinos in the United States between December 16 and 24 that honors the journey of Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus. In Mexico, children and adults dress as Mary and Joseph as they walk with lighted candles, and sing the traditional songs on their journey to find a shelter that ends with Christmas carols, piñatas, and a feast. A beautiful gathering of family and friends celebrating the true meaning of Christmas.
Going to Midnight Mass with the family on Christmas Eve has to be one of the most beautiful and time-honored traditions Latinos around the world participate in. Something about getting everyone ready and dressed in their best to go down to the neighborhood Catholic Church to celebrate the birth of our Savior. We all know Latinos go all out for Christmas Eve with the big party at someone’s house into the wee hours of the night until it’s time to go to Noche Buena. Christmas day, we recuperate from the festivities of the night before and enjoy the kids opening the rest of their gifts.