Tuesday, December 30, 2008


This season of holidays and traditions is one of my favorites. I get to mix Mexican and American traditions, new and old traditions. When my family first came to the states, they brought not much but the clothes they had and the excitement of a new land with new opportunities. They embraced everything American and immediately sought to learn the language and customs. They made the trek every year back to Mexico to visit family and once my sisters and I were old enough, we began to go at Christmas time as well. The Christmas customs and celebrations were unlike anything we had seen before. There were no Christmas trees, Santa Claus or even gifts, just a deep respect and joy for celebrating the birth of Jesus.
As I grew and had my own family I wanted my children to experience and learn the true meaning of the season and that it’s not all about material gifts. Although they have experienced a Christmas in Mexico, I have incorporated some of the traditions and customs I witnessed on our visits with family. In addition to a Christmas tree we also have a statue of baby Jesus in our living room and pray the rosary on Christmas Eve. My children have grown up with two cultures and the traditions of each. As they get older and we all get busier some traditions have had to fall by the wayside or adjusted due to time constraints or dietary restrictions. As others have experienced, in this economy the tradition of presents has been cut back and the focus is more on family time and the religious aspect as it should be. There will be one family gift this year (the much sought after Wii) that will hopefully have us playing and spending more time together all through the year. As I have incorporated these traditions into my family, I have received feedback that some of them are not followed through as should be….are the “tradition” rules set in stone? Who makes these rules? For instance this year we all gathered at mom’s to celebrate Christmas and I forgot to bring my baby Jesus for when we prayed the rosary. My mom insists I must now pray the rosary to it. Mind you I was the one who brought this tradition back into our family as she and my dad did not carry this on in all the years I lived at home. What happens if I don’t end up praying the rosary, will lightning strike me, am I condemned to the fires of hell for eternity? Who is to say - and whether I follow the tradition by the letter or have some slip ups along the way my goal is to create a special Christmas memory for my children and family regardless if tradition was strictly followed. This is probably why some traditions are no longer done. I’m curious as to what other families have done. Have they changed up their traditions due to time, new customs, etc? What are the favorites? Please share your thoughts, experiences.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Winner….in more ways than one.

Last night’s Biggest Loser found Michelle Aguilar as the Season 6 winner. In all she lost a total of 110 pounds beating out the others percentage wise to take home the big money. Michelle entered the contest with her mom. The two had gone through some tough times and Michelle barely knew her mom and hadn’t spoken to her in years. As the show progressed they were able to get to know each other and clarify misunderstandings and come to terms with hurt feelings from past actions. Michelle not only gained her health back through the weight loss and some money, but most importantly she gained back that relationship with her mom. This local girl did good! I’d say this Christmas will be the best ever for Michelle and her family. She is a winner in more ways than one.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tamales…and Navidad

It’s not Christmas without tamales…and not just any tamales but the ones made with Mom’s recipe. The last couple of years I’ve been writing down the steps and trying to get all the steps of this painstaking process down. Mom is getting up in years and I’ve got to this down, because tamales made by others or store bought will just NOT do! Plus I want my kids to learn and know this tradition even though we’ve changed it up slightly (thank goodness for modern conveniences). As usual, I took a vacation day from work to begin the process and it took me all of Friday to just purchase the ingredients and supplies needed for this annual tamalada and to pre-cook and shred the meat. Early Saturday we made the mole sauce from scratch and the masa and then began putting them together. Although my girls and I took care of the heavier workload (kneading the masa, frying the ingredients for the mole, soaking and cleaning the corn husks, etc.), mom was nearby, tasting and gently guiding us in the steps. Once we get to the point of putting them together, the whole thing goes smoothly with an assembly line of one of us putting the masa on the hoja (corn husk), passing it down for the next person to add the meat (which has been mixed in with the red mole sauce), and then passed down to the next person to carefully put into the cooking pot. The whole time everyone is talking, catching up on the family gossip and happenings. Once the pot is full, water is added and we set them to cook. While they are cooking we have a few snacks but nothing that would spoil our appetite as we anxiously await the first tamales of the season – an hour or two later (depending on the size of the pot), we have our first succulent batch of fresh tamales – delicioso! It just isn’t Christmas without a tamalada – a time to celebrate the bond of family.