Your Bicultural Holiday Traditions

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One of the most exciting parts of keeping up with SpanglishBaby is “meeting” so many other parents and educators who share our passion of raising bilingual and bicultural children.  In the 10 months since we launched, we’ve felt part of a constantly growing community of bloggers who are lovingly sharing their bicultural families’ life stories.  We’ve reached out to seven of these mamás blogueras (we DO promise to find papás for the next one!) to leave a piece of their holiday traditions here for all of us.

Starting today, and for the next 6 business days, you’ll get to peek into the bicultural holiday traditions of these wonderful ladies and their familias.  Some you’ve probably already met through their blogs, others might be a total discovery for you.  They’re all gems in our book!  We hope you enjoy this series as much as we did putting it together.

Embracing Puerto Rican Christmas Traditions

Melanie Edwards is a Modern Mami™. As a Latina working mother, she provides an honest depiction of the everyday humor and drama in the life of today’s wife, mother and woman from a Latina perspective. She often blogs about the special concerns working mothers have in attempting to achieve a work-life balance. Melanie has been married nearly seven years and has a 4-year-old daughter.

Growing up, we always knew Navidad had arrived in our house when our father began playing his música navideña. He would break out his tapes (yes, I said tapes not CDs) and play endless Puerto Rican folkloric music. It was also typical of him to use this as an educational moment to teach us about the different types of music, instruments, and even the history behind the lyrics.

Additionally, there was also that special day early in December when we got together as a family to make pasteles. Pasteles are a Puerto Rican delicacy traditionally served in the Christmas season and made out of (mostly) a green banana mass with a pork filling. They are not hard to make, but do require a lot of work and team effort.

So, every year we would pick a Saturday or Sunday to spend making our pasteles. The whole family was usually involved and everyone had their part. While we cooked and made anywhere from 100-150 pasteles, we also listened to music, talked about Puerto Rican traditions, and just laughed as we enjoyed our day together.

Photo by Melanie Edwards: Our family in El Morro, Puerto Rico. Of course, there's no guarantee your kids will ever look at the camera, is there?

Now that I’m married and have a family of my own, I try to make my way over to my parents’ house along with my husband and daughter to participate in this yearly tradition. I want very much for my bi-cultural daughter to learn about both cultures and those important traditions that make up who she is. The day is still spent in very much the same way with music playing, conversations of Puerto Rico, and lots of pasteles being made.

In our own home, though, I also incorporate some basic traditions during the holidays to be sure they continue to live. They may have been modified over the years and as a result of the merged cultures in our family, but they are still our traditions.


It is common for me to make a batch (or two or three) of coquito during the Christmas season. My husband has come to love coquito and now requests that I make it before I even think about it. Coquito is sometimes referred to as Puerto Rican eggnog and is traditionally served at holiday parties.

Nativity under the Tree

I am not sure if this is strictly a Latino tradition, but I know that I mostly see it being done in Latino households. Our nativity set is placed under the Christmas tree and always has been for as long as I can remember. I do the same and it has made the concept of “baby Jesus” a very real one for my daughter.

Noche Buena Dinner

As opposed to American families, we have our family dinner and get-together on Christmas Eve, or Noche Buena, instead of Christmas Day. This is when we have our traditional Christmas dinner of pasteles, arroz con gandules, and pernil.

Tres Reyes

It is typical to celebrate Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three King’s Day) in Puerto Rico. When I was little, I used to make baskets for collecting grass to feed the camels and would receive a gift from Los Reyes under my bed. Sadly, this tradition has been somewhat overlooked over the years for various reasons. However, I am determined to introduce my baby girl to this holiday and its special meaning come January.

All of these traditions help define who we are as a family. I’m thrilled that I get to share these customs with my husband and daughter and that we now get to make them our own traditions.

Your Bicultural Holiday Traditions continue tomorrow with a story told by the Latina-ish Señora López in her unique style. She’ll put a smile on your face. Make sure you’re subscribed to our feed either by RSS or email so you don’t miss a beat.

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