The holidays are just around the corner and the days are getting shorter, so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about traditions. Every family seems to have their own set of holiday traditions. Some of them have been around for generations, and some of them are newer, created by each individual family and shaped by their own experiences. Now that I’m a mother and grandmother, I love to think back to all of the traditions that were the mainstays of my childhood.
I was raised in a Catholic family, which usually included midnight mass on Christmas Eve. This may not be familiar to some of you, so I’ll share a little more about this tradition. We would eat dinner around 7 in the evening and play games or watch Christmas movies. Even though we had a lot of fun doing that, going to mass at 11 was a must.
When we returned from the church service, we would all open up our Christmas gifts. I realize it might sound strange to keep young children up so late. But we loved the anticipation of opening up our Christmas gifts after mass! We got to do this because of our good behavior and our willingness to attend mass together as a family.
Another tradition in the Mexican culture is “Las Posadas.” Las Posadas is a walking journey done in a group that re-enacts Mary and Joseph’s journey. People walk through neighborhoods singing Christmas songs in Spanish as they announce that Jesus is about to be born. It’s a wonderful community-wide celebration that helps spread Christmas cheer.
I was exposed to other wonderful Mexican Christmas traditions as a child. My favorite of all is the tradition of making tamales for our Christmas Eve dinner. I remember vividly the planning and preparation it took for us to come together to make the tamales. It entailed shopping, preparing the meat, and making the tamales as a family. From preparing the corn husks to rolling the meat filling into its corn dough base, tamale-making helped to make our family closer.
It is often said that cooking is a labor of love, and that is definitely true about making tamales. The part I enjoyed the most was sitting around the table with my siblings and my parents as we talked and joked and enjoyed being together. The reward of eating our homemade tamales at Christmas Eve dinner was just the icing on the cake. Our tamale tradition has followed me through most of my adult life, and now my sister and I join other women in my family to prepare tamales for our families at Christmas.
What are some of your favorite family traditions? Are they things you did while growing up or did you start them yourself for your own family?