The following is a guest post by Adriana Villalobos and is part of the Your Bicultural Holiday Traditions series.
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.
Wow Adriana – what a truly wonderful gift you are giving your sons! To be able to commit and stick to the minority language at home process is one that should be applauded!
I recall living in Guadalajara for a summer and loving the passion of the people there. Your boys are so fortunate to enjoy such heritage.
.-= Beth Butler´s last blog ..Throw-It-In Thursday Features Spanish and English Bilingual Movies & Music for Children =-.
Great article Adriana! I already love your blog and love seeing your ideas for raising a Bilingual son Your boys are too darn cute- I love the picture!!!
Your boys are adorable.
I’m curious, with El Nacimiento, do you wait until later to put the baby Jesus in the manger? This was a new tradition for me. My family always set the whole thing up at once but my husband insisted we keep baby Jesus hidden until Christmas.
Feliz Navidad to you and your beautiful family.
.-= Sra. López´s last blog ..SpanglishBaby and TikiTiki =-.
The cool thing is knowing that we are not the only ones! When I read posts like yours it makes me feel so good that we are all in a similar boat raising our sons bilingual and bicultural and we can bounce ideas from one another! Love your pic! I didn’t know about your blog but I started reading it and I already love it!
.-= Dariela´s last blog ..The cool Papá =-.
this is a great article, adriana! i love reading about all of your traditions!
Adriana, thank you for sending the article to me. The boys are growing so fast and are really cute. I also enjoyed the article. May your traditions with your sons continue until the end of time.
I would love to get your Rosca de Reyes recipe! Do you put the little baby inside?
Thanks for sharing your traditions with us!
.-= maryanne´s last blog ..Christmas Market at the Rathaus (Vienna’s City Hall) =-.
I loved reading more about you! Your blog is so fun and inspiring! I didn’t know you were a gringa like me! Love to hear what you are doing!
.-= Tati´s last blog ..Book Reviews and Discounts! =-.
When I married my Mexican husband 4 years ago (yes I am a gringa, too) and became a member of his family, I started “messing with” our holiday traditions at my house. That is how my (also gringa) daughter said it. She was 14 then and suddenly changing what we did at holidays especially seemed to make her feel sort of lost. We talked about what she would consider the ESSENTIAL elements of the “American” holiday, and I made sure these few things would happen. It is a challenge with a large group of people who tend to ignore schedules. But when I explain it, everyone is supportive. We also get the opportunity to talk about what they feel is ESSENTIAL to having a good Mexican holiday. The way it ends up working out, there are a few things we do every year. For example, at Christmas, we have a wonderful big meal on 12/24 for Noche Buena just like in Mexico, but we have to get the food ready a little early, because instead of just sitting down at the table to eat around midnight like in Mexico (on 12/25 sleeping in and drifting over to the church at some point, knowing there will be Masses running pretty much all day) in our new blended family some of us on 12/24 will be leaving promptly at 10:40pm to get a good seat for the one and only Midnight Mass (in English). So one side agrees to plan ahead in order to eat earlier on 12/24, and the other side agrees to forget about getting everyone up on 12/25 very early in the morning to open presents and have a big meal on 12/25 “American style”. Everyone gets what they considered the essential elements — going to church, and getting together to eat as a family. There are other traditions we do sometimes one year and sometimes another year. The secret is we all try to say what we want but then listen to each other and figure out how to keep what’s really important. So that is how we have made happy holiday times in our family and even enjoy each other’s traditions. My daughter recently said to me she is glad her new baby brother will have a strong connection with his Mexican family and heritage. I am posting this hoping to help anyone who has family that don’t speak Spanish and have their own non-Hispanic traditions, and perhaps get grumpy when someone is “messing with” the holidays. It can be done!
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