When I think about my favorite Christmas decorations, they’re always the ones that tell a story – the ones that are unique to the home that they adorn. Commercially, Christmas items are mass-produced with no culture in mind. You’ve got Santa, plenty of green and red items, and nativity sets that rarely depict Jesus and his family properly. (Ahem, this Middle Eastern family was definitely brown y’all!) So when I was scrolling through my Instagram feed a couple of days ago and saw that someone made a wreath of tamales, I was so impressed by this culturally relevant (and creative) Christmas decoration.
For many Latinx families, Christmas time is synonymous with tamales season so a tamale wreath is pretty damn brilliant. The man behind this wreath is Luis Octavio, the host of the podcast “Nos Vemos en el Swap Meet.” Octavio told me that the inspiration for the project came from a conversation with a friend who was looking for a clever invitation to her family’s yearly tamalada (a day where “many generations get together and make tamales all day.”
After tossing around some ideas, they came up with the tamale wreath, which Octavio then created. This is more than just a cool arts and crafts project, Octavio sees it as an item that has serious cultural significance.
“I’m sure that if these were mass-produced, they would sell out because it’s not just a wreath, it’s a piece of art – one that helps us remember our family traditions. When my mother saw it she said, “ahi hijo, esto me recuerda a los tamales que hacía tu bisabuela.” [That] is what I wanted this wreath to make you think of: of family and traditions.”
Octavio’s already got some people making tamale wreaths of their own. And if you want to make one for your family, follow the steps below.
- 24 inch wreath
- 1 can of Great Stuff gap filler
- corn husks/leaves
- yarn or ribbon of your choice
- and patience
Steps to making the wreath:
- Put on gloves before handling the gap filler.
- Take the corn husks and fold into the shape of a tamal leaving the top open.
- Squeeze the Great Stuff gap filler into the tamales. It takes about 20-25 minutes to dry.
- After the gap filler has dried in all the tamales, cut off excess at top.
- Tie ribbon around each.
- Loosen branches on the wreath.
- Arrange tamales around the wreath to pick the design you’d like.
- Slide tamal with ribbon onto branch (double check to make sure they’re secure). Do the same with the rest.
- Add bow on top.
- And impress all your neighbors!