Feeling at Home Within Two Cultures

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

Photo by Adriana Villalobos

Photo by Adriana Villalobos

We are a bilingual and bicultural family.  I am a “gringa” born and raised in the mid-west to English-speaking parents.  I fell in love with the Spanish language and Hispanic culture while studying in Mexico and Spain during college.  Years later I even became a high school Spanish teacher.  Five years ago I married my wonderful Mexican-American husband.  He was the first child born in to his family in the United States after they moved to Texas from Mexico.    Together we have two beautiful niños, Diego who is almost four and Mateo who is 20 months.   When we were expecting our first child, we decided that we did not want them to lose touch with their Mexican heritage.   We have tried to accomplish this in the following two ways:


My husband’s parents and many other relatives do not speak English.  It is, therefore, imperative that our children learn Spanish to create and maintain a bond with this side of their family.  We have chosen to use the ML@H (minority language at home) method and have only spoken Spanish to the boys since they were born.  We have also hired Spanish-speaking babysitters and recently enrolled our oldest son in a Spanish Immersion Preschool.  We also plan as many trips as possible to visit my husband’s side of the family and the boys talk to their abuelos on the phone every week.


Since we live in the U.S., our children are surrounded by and heavily influenced by the American culture.  It is also very important to my husband and I that the boys experience and learn to appreciate the Mexican culture and traditions, as well.   That is why we celebrate both the 4th of July and el 16 de septiembre, both Halloween and el Día de los Muertos, and both Christmas and el Día de los Reyes Magos.  While our children are very young, we are working on how to honor both cultures and celebrate both traditions.   I would like to share some of the ways that we will integrate the Mexican traditions into our holiday celebrations this year.

  • Libros, libros y más libros- Both of my boys love books and we are happy to read to them (en español) several times a day.  An effective way to introduce new vocabulary and teach about a certain tradition is to read a book about it to your child.  We are lucky enough to have a public library full of books in Spanish.
  • El Nacimiento- One of my husband’s first Christmas memories is helping his abuela set up her nativity scene.   She collected so many pieces that it took up most of the living room during the holidays.  We only have a small set (so far) but my husband enjoys putting it up with our sons and telling stories about his beloved grandmother.
  • Villancicos-  In addition to the English classics like Rudolf and Frosty the Snowman, we sing traditional Christmas songs in Spanish, as well.  Diego’s favorite is “Los peces en el río.”
  • Tamales- Every year the entire family gets together to make un montón de tamales.   I remember being overwhelmed the first year that I participated by the amount of tamales that we were making.  This is one of my favorite traditions because it allows us time (several hours) to spend together catching up and because tamales are deliciosos.
  • Posadas-  We are fortunate to live in a very culturally diverse area.  Every year we participate in the Posadas that are hosted by the local Latino Cultural Center.
  • Día de los Reyes Magos- Our children leave out stockings for Santa, but they also set out their zapatos for the Three Kings on January 6th.  This year I hope to have Diego help me make a Rosca de Reyes  cake also.

It is a challenge to teach our children about their Mexican heritage while living in the United States.  It is our hope that the boys will grow up appreciating and feeling at home within both cultures.

Adriana Villalobos is a highschool Spanish teacher in Texas who is raising her two young sons bilingually with her Mexican-American husband. She writes about her family’s adventures on her blog My Bilingual Boys.

How do you keep in touch with your holiday traditions?

Your Bicultural Holiday Traditions continues tomorrow with a story from Dariela, Nuestra Vida con Adrián, who gives us a peek into her Venezuelan-American holiday fiesta. Make sure you’re subscribed to our feed either by RSS or email so you don’t miss a beat.

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