Tender Traditions: Looking Back Onto Holiday Traditions, Now Lost

“I remember for Christmas when I was younger, my family and I would always go to church either in the United States or Mexico and we always had Nativity scenes under the Christmas tree,” Spanish teacher Señor Rodriguez said. “All of my family believed in the Three Wise Men. We honored the twelve days of Christmas too; however, we never went to Midnight Mass when I was a child.” 

As part of traditional Mexican culture during Christmas time, Hispanics celebrate the holiday called “Los Posadas” which means “inn” or “shelter” and lasts for eight days. The tradition commemorates the journey that Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of a safe refuge where Mary could give birth to the baby Jesus. It also features a wide range of foods unique to the culture. 

“We always had tamales for Christmas growing up,” Rodriguez said. “It was a whole experience with beans and rice. The ladies would start everything in advance and make the dough with sugar and pork. It happened all at my grandmother’s house.”

During Las Posadas, first comes the piñatas and the fireworks, then the food. The traditional Posada fare includes tamales, buñuelos, atole and café de olla.  

“I remember as a young boy getting together at my grandmother’s house in Mexico,” Rodriguez said. “We would get together with all of my cousins and eat tamales and mole. We had pinatas and fireworks too. The older people would play dominos and the women would cook. We even had Mariachis a couple times which made the environment lively and fun.” 

For some it’s the food that’s most important, but for others, memories of the colors and life found only during Christmas time become the highlight of the year. 

“The trees were always filled with color. It was always the traditional green, white, and red, and mixed in with the Mariachis,” Rodriguez said. “Almost every Christmas, we would have Mariachis that wore black outfits with shiny instruments like the bass or the guitar and the big hats. It was very multi-colored and very lively with white lights on trees. I remember they used to illuminate the sky when we would play soccer or do fireworks.” 

While memories may last forever, traditions can die especially with age and distance. 

“My traditions are very different now especially since I live in the United States,” Rodriguez said. “In Mexico, we used to have 50 or 60 people all in one house for Christmas and I remember my Grandmother had a very big house. Now that I’m older, my son has grown up and has moved on, leaving a fracture in our family. When my grandmother passed away, the deep-rooted Latin and Spanish traditions that we had at Christmas went away. I miss it, but it is what it is now. My cousins from when I was younger are still in contact with each other through text, but it’s not the same from when I was younger.” 

Christmas today remains the most popular holiday of all time. Many look forward to the holiday year round and build once in a lifetime connections with family and friends. 

“I wish Christmas would have lasted longer,” Rodriguez said. “From the time that I was six or seven, up until I was a freshman in high school, we started to migrate away from the tradition and I hardly ever got to visit my grandmother. Out of nostalgia, I wish the festivities were longer. I can’t replicate the big Christmas tradition that I had when I was younger because I only have a son and he is already grown and has a family. Traditionally, Spanish families are very big with seven, eight, or nine kids but that is not the case for my family. I remember most playing five on five soccer with my boy cousins and the girls would sit around and talk while we would chase them with fireworks.”

  By Sofia Portillo, staff writer

Featured photo by Max Levey

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