Bilingual is Better

The following is a guest post by Marcela Hede and is part of the Your Bicultural Holiday Traditions series.

Photo Courtesy of Marcela Hede

Photo Courtesy of Marcela Hede

We love Las Navidades! Typically we celebrate the best of both worlds-the American and the Hispanic one.  I try to introduce our Colombian traditions in a fun way for our son Ian to have great memories of them.

At home we place a lot of emphasis on three things that help us celebrate Hispanic style.

1.  Building the pesebre or nativity scene.

2.  Going to at least one Novena de Aguinaldo, which is a Colombian-style novena we pray from December 16th to December 24th.

3.  Having a small celebration- “Latino style”- on the 24th of December.

We don’t waste time.  Believe it or not, on the last Saturday of November we have our box of decorations out, and I make a traditional simple chocolate parviao-a hot chocolate served with arepas and buñuelos-for us to enjoy during the process of armando la navidad.

There are always three things I make sure we have:  Villancicos to play during the crazy process of decorating our place and throughout Christmas, traditional Hispanic Christmas food, and a special book for reading the story of baby Jesus while Ian arranges the pesebre.

We put out the Christmas tree and on the skirt underneath it our son puts together the pesebre. It all happens while playing villancicos in the background and having hot chocolate.

Getting together with Colombian friends to pray the Novena de Aguinaldos is a pleasure.  This is a tradition I grew up with.  The families sit around the pesebre reading prayers from a small book where we have the novena for each of the nine days.  Our children love this tradition because there is a portion of the novena where they sing and play instruments, such as maracas, small drums, triangles and lids of pots and pans to accompany the famous chorus.  Of course, more Hispanic-style eating follows…

I admit we may get carried away by having both baby Jesus and Santa bringing presents but…this is the only way I found I could teach our son to differentiate the two dates we have for celebrating Christmas- the 24th the Hispanic style and the 25th the American way.

On the 24th we serve something simple, opposite to what I grew up experiencing in Colombia.  No big feast on the 24th, but we do eat: natilla, hot chocolate, empanadas, sabajón or eggnog (Colombian recipe), and tamales.  Yes, I cheat… I buy the tamales the same day at a nearby place that makes them fresh and Colombian style!

I explain to our son that baby Jesus comes that night, and if he stays up late he may get the presents on the 24th.  He never stays up that late anyway, and baby Jesus brings the presents close to his bed.  Instead, for Santa to come he has to go to bed and wake up to open his presents under the tree and in the stocking.

My “gringo” and my son love celebrating on the 24th because our close by family comes over including his cousin Hayley, his “favorite girl in the whole wide world.” We play Christmas carols and villancicos, and the kids enjoy while we eat, chat and play games.

The most wonderful part is that my son and I are the only Hispanics because the rest of the family I celebrate with is American, but they love it!  It is by no means a Latin style bash with music until 5 am and a full cena de Navidad, but I take what I can to keep Hispanic traditions going.

I encourage you to do the same. Navidad is one of the best opportunities to get close to our roots and to teach Latin traditions to our little ones.  Feliz Navidad and keep on celebrating!

Marcela Hede is a stay home mom and an entrepreneur who after several years in marketing created Hispanic Culture Online– a Latino lifestyle site to connect Hispanic culture lovers and Hispanic-Americans to their roots.

What are some of the traditional meals served on your holiday table?

Your Bicultural Holiday Traditions was a great success thanks to these amazing seven mamás blogueras who lovingly let us have a peek at their family life during the holidays and thanks to you for visiting us and spreading the word. We´ll be taking a small break for the holidays, but we´ll be re-posting some of our more popular articles to date. We wish you a beautiful holiday season with your loved ones. Peace.
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