Contrary to popular belief, not every latino family listens to “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano every holiday season. In my family, we celebrated the holidays a little differently than our fellow American friends.
I grew up in a home where Christmas was not about Santa Clause. We opened gifts on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve). My cousin would spend the entire day at a hair salon only to come home, get dressed up, enjoy the feast that my grandmother had been preparing since 5AM that morning and then at midnight, the youngest child in the family would be blindfolded in order to grab a gift from the Christmas tree. The blindfolding made the gift process a lot more fun, especially if you had already scoped out which presents had your name on them. That was usually the person who did not get to open a gift until the very tail end of the game.
I remember when my parents would dedicate a day to visit stores and see their holiday displays. We loved visiting Sears. While my dad would hang out in the tool and auto section, my mother would drag us to the home section. I remember my brother and I drinking orange juice out of champagne glasses and wondering what our parents had gotten us for Noche Buena. Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends would all come over from everywhere, some would even fly in from other countries. While music played in the background, we would run around the house in our finest attire while the adults tried to stop us from poking holes through the gift wrapping of all of the gifts. There was never a thought about Santa Clause because Christmas for us was a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. On Christmas day, we would sleep in and wake up with a Noche Buena hangover, much like Vanessa Bell from De Su Mama explains here in her article for the Huffington Post (you go girl!). You can only imagine how difficult it was to stay awake until 12AM and then getting an adrenaline rush once we opened our gifts. Once we stopped playing with our new treasures in the wee hours of the morning, we would completely crash for the night.
Twelve days after Noche Buena we would hear the story of the three kings and their pilgrimage to Bethlehem to present baby Jesus (did I really just say, baby Jesus?) with gifts. The evening before, we would leave out hay for the camels and cigars and rum for the three kings because we all know rum is a lot more hydrating than water. The next morning we would have small gifts in celebration of three kings day.
I knew Santa Clause was a figure of the holiday season but I never broke the news to any of my friends who believed. When I became a mother, it was very important for my husband that our children believed in Santa Clause. We began the tradition of Christmas morning while still celebrating Noche Buena the evening before. We now exchange gifts with family members on Christmas Eve and then the presents from Santa are under the tree on Christmas morning. We still have kept many traditions and still visit Sears to see their holiday display every year. This year we even purchased our Christmas trees and outdoor decorations there! Santa Clause might have even picked up some presents at Sears this year, we all know the elves can be slackers sometimes. It is seriously the best one stop shop place for the holidays and my favorite go to. Just as many years before, while my husband hangs out in the auto section, I usually find myself in the Home section. Ugh! I really am turning into my mother!
Many people have had opinions about the way we have decided to celebrate the Christmas holiday but all that matters to us is that we create memories just as our families did for us. Whether it is about believing or not believing, we still celebrate the magic that is Christmas.