The holidays are my favorite time of year. It reminds me of the great times we had as kids (me below), the festive parties my parents used to throw, la musica de parranda and of course the food! Always about the food. It was always natilla, buñuelos, and empanadas in our house. I am so happy that I finally learned step by step how to make my mom's famous empanadas that I will be happy to make this Christmas with my Victoria.
We remember our tradiciones and if we're lucky enough to have our parents around they help us keep those traditions. But what about those of us that may not have our families nearby or those whose parents have passed away? How can we continue and pass down our holiday traditions with our children while creating new traditions?
1. Let's start with the food!
Food and cuisine are at the heart of every culture and tradition. Every country, no matter what part of the world it is from will have it's own dishes and will have specific foods or dishes tied to different holidays. For Latinos, food is the heart of almost every home. My dad always says, "Barriga llena corazon contento!" that roughly translates to Full Belly Happy Heart. There are many ways you can continue the traditional holiday foods without being a gourmet chef, here's how:
- If you live in a big city like N.Y, L.A, Chicago, Miami, or Dallas odds are that it will be easier for you to find a somewhat local bakery or restaurant that will create those traditional dishes or pastries for catering, delivery, or to go.
- If you simply cannot find what you want or need delivered, the next option is to create your own. Now ingredients may be hard to find but today you can find just about anything online like http://www.amigofoods.com a Latino only online grocery store featuring products from every country and if you need to look up how to make something YouTube it or Pinterest It!
2. La Música
I am as much an American as I am Latina. Christmas Music reminds me of El Burrito Sabanero and El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico as much as Jingle bells and Mariah Carey's All I want for Christmas is You (and I don't even like her!) Kids love music and they love the holidays. Play them the music you listened to growing up, it's so easy to find and incorporate it with the new holiday music they will be hearing everywhere.
Maybe you find it on YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, or the latest music craze. I know you can find a playlist (like the one on our YouTube channel) that features music you can play to your kids, and they'll especially love "Tuki, Tuki, Tuki!"
3. Religious/Community Activities
As I've stated before, I am an open minded Catholic. My brother is a born again Christian and my husband is a borderline atheist. We are all different. Whatever your religious beliefs are I'm sure that your church or local community has events during the holidays that can help you keep your old traditions like "Misa de Gallo" or midnight mass or create new ones like accepting donations or giving to the poor.
My local church has a beautiful holiday program called "Angel Trees" (some church's call it a Giving Tree) where they have 2 large Christmas trees located inside the church with dozens of hanging angel ornaments that each represent a family in need. You take the ornament and buy that needy family a gift or gifts and return the gifts with the tagged ornament. It is a new tradition that I will start with my daughter this year so that she can start to understand the true gift of giving.
4. Santa, Niño Dios, The Reyes Magos, & Those Aguinaldos
Growing up I was so confused as to who brought me los aguinaldos (presents). Since I grew up in Miami I always knew of Santa Claus, however my parents insisted that el Niño Jesus brought me gifts, and then I'd get an extra gift from the 3 Kings in January. I just knew I had alot of people getting me gifts, lol. Now that my daughter is almost 3, she is starting to see Santa plastered everywhere, though if you ask her, she'll tell you he's a makeup artist! I've given it some thought and have also read some really cute Santa stories and this is how we will make it work.
My personal thoughts and please don't take offense if you don't agree, gift giving for you may be totally different. I remember growing up as a lower middle class family. My dad had a wealthy friend who was married with one bratty son who was showered with TODO (everything). Every Christmas Santa would bring him the coolest most expensive toys even gave his mom a new car one year. I remember feeling so confused and heartbroken that Santa would give this undeserving brat everything and here my familia was deserving of so much more and we got simple gifts that our Santa could barely afford.
Our Santa will work with el Niño Dios and sure the Reyes Magos, and us (a holiday network). They work with our budget and Santa simply "chips" in (read that somewhere). He'll bring Victoria and Hope one gift, mom, dad, and family will do the rest cause we work too damn hard for fluffy to get all the credit! For me the holidays are about giving (to others other than my child) and while my daughter is only 2, it is never too early to teach our kids about gratitude, being fortunate, and helping those less fortunate than us. This is one tradition mi mamá instilled upon us that I insist on passing down.
5. Something personal to create a new tradition.
There are two new traditions I have created in our home. The first is to give my daughter and husband a new ornament reflective of something they loved or focused on that year. For my daughter last year was Elmo and my husband was Star Wars. This year was Elena. I put the year on the ornaments so that when we look back on them we can go back in time. When my daughter has a home of her own I'll be sure to give her her collection of ornaments.
The second tradition is a photo yearbook for my daughter. I love pictures, I love taking pictures, I even wanted to be a photographer at some point. I've created a picture yearbook for the past 3 years. There are so many apps and websites like Shutterfly, Mixbook, or Chatbooks that make it so easy for you to create a book and kids LOVE them and you'll love looking back. My daughter's favorite books are the picture books. I've created picture books for my best mamá friends and their kids love them. It's a very personal gift that can become a tradition.
There are many ideas on keepsakes and new traditions. What creates a tradition is the consistency. If you do it every holiday, your family will adapt it, pass it on, and so forth. We don't have to do everything that our parents or familia did, that's the beauty. We can honor our past and our cultura while embracing our new traditions.