Our Multicultural Christmas Memories

The other day, while we were working on Christmas projects, I asked my younger sons when people ask you what ethnicity you are, what do you say? I wanted to know. After a quick glance at me, like I was confused or forgetful, they both responded, almost simultaneously “White and Mexican.” Y pues I smiled because it’s exactly what our American family is and they embraced it! 

My cold blooded Englishman and I, his strong Latina woman, have accepted God’s gift of hope and salvation; Jesus. We use the tools he’s provided. We have worked hard at building our life, home and family and with time, our differences; race, culture, economic status and traditions have blended well together. It has helped that our similarities; Born Again Christians and American have kept us united. We’ve pulled into our own family the traditions from our childhood and created some of our own and our kids gobbled up the moments. They rejoiced, especially during the Christmas season.

I have to admit, at first it was awkward to hear about Ben’s Christmas fun. Hijole, I don’t want to sound like “que pobrecita” but it’s just that it was foreign to me. How was a mom able to give so much time to a project with the kids? I would immediately chalk it up to something “los gringos ricos” did. See, I had never seen my apa or brothers get involved with Christmas details, it had to be something that only the rich white people did. Ben talks about things I only saw en la tele. Somehow, instead of telling me about his Christmas traditions, he practiced them with me. 

Our first year of marriage, we weren’t sure how Christmas should be handled so we bought a little mini fake tree and put it on our coffee table. Por supuesto que, the traditional tamales and champurrado meal would be our first Christmas experience, I was sure of that much at least. Then, the following year Ben announced that we must have a real Christmas tree. Como? Could our tight budget be so extravagant? We didn’t pull out our mini tree so for much of the season we didn’t have a tree up, they were just too expensive. Then one day very close to the end of Christmas he passed a lot that was closing up. To his delight he got a medium size tree for a clearance price and his Christmas tradition was fulfilled. Decorations were scant, as I look back now, it was like Little House On The Prairie and their humble Christmases. A real live Christmas tree! beautiful! I was comforted and hooked on this tradition.

This opened the door for him to introduce other sweet traditions at Christmas,most of them I have enjoyed and continued, like decorating the house, filling Christmas stockings and sourdough pancakes on Christmas morning. Pero, one that was too much for my uncreative mind was the gingerbread houses. Hijole! I felt the pressure, so I attempted to make a gingerbread house with my kids. Pero, I kept it real, like the other side of the tracks real! Graham crackers, candy canes, marshmallows and frosting, after tons of frosting to hold the casita together, I called it a day when it was barely standing. Ben’s gingerbread house recollection was quite different. His eyes lit up when I asked him to tell me about his casita. 

First they designed their house on paper, like their architect father would have. Their Gingerbread house was elaborately laid out on a cookie sheet covered with powdered sugar icing for snow. They made walls from rolled out gingerbread cookie dough, glued together with melted caramel candy. The house had windows covered with shutters made also of gingerbread cookie dough, as well as a chimney.The roof had Hershey’s M&Ms for shingles. The trimming of the house was lined with gum drops. Luego, out in the yard, asi es, they erected a nice 3-dimensional tree, cut out with a tree shaped cookie cutter, painted with the powdered sugar icing and glued with the melted caramel. Green gum drop bushes in the yard and the Gingerbread boy standing tall. After all that work and beautiful architecture, the end of the holiday season came and then, Ben and his brothers were allowed to rip pieces off the house and eat them. Chunks of cookies, caramel and chocolate candy was their demolition delight! Y ahora si, they opened gifts and then traveled to grandma’s house on Christmas day. All I can say is that I’m glad my kids were happy with their gingerbread sugar shack!

As much as I grumble about the constant activity and work, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The rush to order Christmas cards, Thomas and Cita’s baking marathon, my bread baking, decorations, tamales with my cuñada, the Ornament Exchange party, our Scrooge Dinner, Grammys cookies and of course los regalitos that do not go under the tree until Christmas morning. Es Navidad, and I love it!  At the end of every year, in December, I like to look back and see all that God has done for us and I love the whole reason for this season; Christ was born!

Feliz Navidad, y que Dios los bendiga.

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