This Christmas, was a very special Christmas.
A good friend of mine from college was able to join my very Latino Navidad, she’s African American and pretty much tripped out when I told her we do Xmas Dinner on Xmas eve. And then I was like, “Don’t you?” and she was like, “no!” She then told me her family, along with THE REST OF AMERIA, does Christmas dinner on Christmas Day.
I had NO IDEA!
I thought everyone did Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve!!!
So she became very curious as to what we do, our traditions, etc.
And this is what I told her, some of you may agree or disagree, but I would love to hear what you do!
Ever since I could remember, Christmas dinner has always been on Christmas eve, for one very special reason, and I believe this reason, is the reason that I finally realized why we do Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. Most Latino families tend to be Catholic. In Catholic doctrine, we celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus. We do elaborate Nativity sets, with Mary, Joseph, the Three Kings, some lambs and cows around the manger, and right smack in the middle, is little Baby Jesus. Most of the times, the nativity sets on Christmas Eve are with real people, usually kids and a new born baby, I always wondered where the babies would come from, but I guess there was never a shortage!
In my family, we see Christmas as the birth of Christ, so naturally, we celebrate on the 24th. We also do a special mass, known to us as “Midnight Mass”, which literally, takes place at Midnight on the 24th which then becomes the 25th.
Santa Claus, or Papa Noel, or El Nino Dios, comes during the time we are at church, sometimes later, nonetheless, we open presents on Christmas morning, after He is born.
Not at midnight!
I know there are a lot of Latinos that open their presents at midnight, I don’t know why they do this, since they are “suppose” to be at church! But that’s a whole different blog!
I never understood midnight gifts, the only time we ever stood awake in my family till midnight was for New Years, in which we ate 12 grapes out of wine glasses, but more on that later!
Anyways, we didn’t go to midnight mass this year, which was kinda sad. I may not be the most devout Catholic, I have more than a few issues with some of the philosophy, but there are some traditions that are worth keeping, celebrating and being joyous over. Regardless of how certain people in power behave themselves. But the actions of priests (aka Priests Gone Wild), especially those that have made headlines recently, certainly is an indication why so many people have lost their faith…
Nonetheless, Midnight mass has always been one of my favorite traditions.
This year for Christmas we made Salvadorian pastelitos, which my friend called “really big Wantons”. Hahaha. Not quite, but similar. I was a bit worried, my mother made me in charge of marinating the godornizas, (corn hens), she did say on air last week while she was giving out listeners the recipe for Salvadorian Tamales that I didnt know how to cook!, but I think the godornizes came out delicious! We also had Jambalya rice and asparagus. Oh… and off course… Mexican tamales! My grandmother made those. Since I have been sick, battling the flue for what seems ages, my cousins convinced me to take a shot, or two of tequila! Which I did, and I did feel better, but what really made me feel all warm inside, was the ponche, which is like the Mexican version of hot Sangria, it has fruits and lots of tequila with a cinnamon stick.
So mostly, that’s what we do, prepare food all day, eat dinner on Christmas eve, celebrate with family, go to midnight mass, come home, sleep, and wake up to presents, do breakfast, more family time and left overs. I have 4 other sisters, not to mention countless cousins who drop by, so we are a big group! It’s a two day event!
When I was little, we never left Santa cookies, I think once I left him a concha, but we never left him food, we figured all the white kids in the rich neighborhoods were feeding him. Hahahaha! Those cookies were mine dammit!
But we never had cookies anyways, not the kind you see on tv, the chocolate chip kind, we had galletas, or these long pink things that has vanilla frosting in the middle or these ear looking things that we got at the panaderia.
Getting back to my story, on Christmas day, I took my friend to another friends Christmas Party, who is Armenian. There was Baklava, lots of cheese with grapes and strawberries, a spinach baked dish, a very thin burrito looking thing, some meats and lots of pastries. I really wanted some enchiladas! But alas… no enchiladas… What we really took out of this experience was the freshness of the food and also the realization that a lot of their foods are cold. They had a chicken walnut salad with fresh pomegranate seeds, so delicious!
Later that evening, my friend took me to her mom’s house for Christmas dinner, which had countless pots filled with pork with potatoes and carrots, turkey with stuffing and gravy, collard greens, mac n cheese, potato salad, biscuits, corn bread, jam, and off course… chitterlings! I poured Louisiana Hot Sauce on those! Not bad! Chitterlings are known to Latinos as tripitas. We cook them a little different, but it’s the same thing!
She told me that you have to TRUST the cook if you are going to eat Chitterlings. They need to be very clean. Makes sense! It’s the lower intestine!
Overall, it was a very interesting Christmas! Learned a lot about my own culture as well as others; who knew Latinos were the only ones who did Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve?! I am now very interested in learning about Hanukka…
Footnote: I was googling a picture of a nativity set and I came accross THIS! Lesbian Nativity in Italy! Mama Mia!
Also, I chose the rubber ducky Nativity because I like ducks. Quack Quack!