I grew up third-generation Mexican-American. My Dad grew up Catholic, and my Mom grew up Jehovah’s Witness. So Christmas was a combination of multiple cultures and theories. By the time us kids came around we just called ourselves Christians. We believed in God, The Devil, the 10 commandments, etc. However, you will not see a cross in my parent’s house.
Now onto Christmas. My mom thoroughly enjoyed decorating the house. She didn’t get to experience that and would go all out, to make sure us kids had a Christmas wonderland every December. The first weekend of December, we will go to a Christmas tree farm and cut down our tree.
We will have a table of dancing Santas, a table with a miniature winter wonderland town, and a slew of lights. Every year, she will choose a new theme for the Christmas tree. Some years it was a classic tree, other years it will have a purple and silver theme.
My Dad had two Christmas jobs: put up the Christmas lights and bake the sweets. My Dad loved baking all the sweets. My family will come over and eat his desserts. From banana nut bread, brownies with walnuts, brownies without walnuts, fudge squares, peanut butter cookies with a chocolate kiss in the middle, and of course apple or cherry pie. As kids, we will help decorate the sugar cookies. Now as adults we make our creations. Okay, to be honest, my sisters bake their creations, and I eat them.
We didn’t celebrate Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve was meant for baking and decorating cookies, staying in pajamas all day, and trying to stay up late to see Santa Claus. We didn’t exchange gifts or have a tamale making parties.
To some Latinos, we were too Americanize aka “white,” and to my white friends, I was too “Latino” because even though we didn’t make tamales, we sure did eat them. We had friends and family members that would make them. So December is a month long adventure of eating tamales.
The traditions of Christmas Eve opening presents and tamale making didn’t come into our family life until my siblings started to date first-generation Mexican-Americans. I started to attend midnight mass and open up one gift on Christmas gift on Christmas Eve when I met Nicholas. He is Irish Catholic, and mass is important to his mom. Now our family Christmas traditions have morphed and grown. Isn’t that the meaning of Christmas. Sharing joy and love with the people you love.