Editor’s note: With today’s post, we begin this year’s Bicultural Holiday Traditions on SpanglishBaby. This season we decided to ask our treasured contributors to share their holiday traditions with all of us! We don’t get tired of saying it: We absolutely love our contributors for the uniqueness and diversity they bring to SpanglishBaby and we’re truly grateful they’re a part of our family ¡Qué lo disfruten!
I was torn about what to write for this holiday post, as I am in a bit of a transition with my traditions. My parents divorced when I was 18, so my holidays have been split and variable ever since. Add to that the fact that I was married and beginning to create my own family traditions, and then moved back home recently, and I have ended up with a hodgepodge of choices and obligations. Now, I have to try to balance the demands of my two sides of the family, plus my son’s two sides of his (multicultural) family during this hectic time of year.
Given that Isaiah is about to turn 3, he is just now learning about Santa/Papá Noel and understanding the significance of the holiday season. Although it’s only the three of us at home, my mom put up her tall Christmas tree and we’ve been doing our best to get into the spirit with plenty of seasonal movies and music. The unusually cold weather in Florida has been somewhat helpful.
I decided that the thing I love most about the holidays is being able to bake for friends and family. Isaiah and I spent the last two days baking and decorating twelve dozen cookies, and tomorrow we’ll start on the pies. This may seem like what comes before the REAL traditions (the eating of said sweets), but many times, the love is in the process.
My most established Christmas memories are not religious or cultural and do not involve preparation so much as Christmas morning itself. I remember eating cinnamon buns and drinking hot chocolate while my dad played Santa and handed out gifts to me and my brother. Isaiah will be with his father on Christmas morning this year, so I’m having to figure out what kinds of traditions I can establish that are irrespective of time and place, that we can carry with us wherever (and with whomever) we happen to be over the years.
As far as Isaiah’s Latino heritage and holiday pastimes go, I am learning about them as he does. I have picked up a few aguinaldos from his toys, TV shows, and the radio. We read stories about La Navidad and anticipate the big day together. He will likely go to mass with his father’s family on La Nochebuena and eat traditional Cuban and Puerto Rican food. The things that surround us in our immediate community are a big part of both of our lives – mine by choice, his by birth. It is a strange feeling to participate in the same customs that my son does, but not with him. I stand both outside and inside, trying to make his experience “authentic,” though I sometimes have no idea what that means.
The things I am learning about the holidays parallel the things I have learned about emphasizing Spanish. There is a delicate balance over which I have no control, although I frequently feel responsible for every detail. Isaiah’s experience will not be anything like mine, not least of all because he has two cultures to combine, and whatever he remembers and replicates for his own children will be unique.
There is a sort of freedom in starting over – in life and in holiday traditions. I’m looking forward to meandering through them both.