I can’t function without a plan. I find that I get lost, I forget things and I don’t complete tasks. I know this about myself, and therefore I am usually armed with a list and detailed plan. Currently, I feel like I have failed to plan Christmas, and I am behind. In my defense we spent Thanksgiving in Hawaii, and when we returned our Christmas tree was not up, my son had an ear infection and my daughter had hand food and mouth disease. It took us awhile to get ourselves together and back on track. Our tree just went up last Sunday, December 6th. I decorated the kitchen, dining room and living room. My husband decorated outside and put up the stockings. He found the Elf on the Shelf, but has only moved it twice. I bought a snowman clock that tells us how many days are left for Christmas. It currently says there are 20 days, but there are actually 16 days left until Christmas. I feel like I suck at Christmas.
I wonder if my disorganization this Christmas comes from the fact that the Christmas that my husband and I are creating for our kids is a mishmash of traditions from our Latino upbringing, American traditional Christmas and some new traditions of modern times. It is like creating a new recipe as you go — add a little of this and a little of that and hope that it all turns out good. We are making it up as we go, creating a new Christmas for our family that is Mexican, Colombian and American.
Growing up my family use to celebrate Christmas with my mom’s family or my dad’s family. They took turns. They each had 10 siblings. At that time not all of them were in the US and not all had children. We all fit in one house. The house was still packed, but somehow us kids had room for running around, and the adults had room for dancing. Those were fun times! We ate traditional Mexican Christmas foods: tamales, ponche (Mexican spiced punch) and bunuelos (dessert that looks like elephant ears) and the families all brought additional dishes to share. From ribs to chile rellenos, rice, spaghetti, you could find it all at our Christmas buffet style dinner. The party started Christmas Eve at around 6pm and lasted until 2am. Everyone would stay up to wish each other a merry Christmas at midnight and open gifts. It was awesome opening gifts at midnight. Only once did the adults pretend that Santa Claus dropped off the presents (it was my Godfather in a Santa costume). The rest of the years everyone brought the gifts over. My mom would label some from Santa and others from Mom and Dad. She used the same wrapping paper. That is the extent to which the adults kept the Santa fantasy alive. Maybe I was just very gullible, or maybe I suspected the truth and decided to pretend like everyone else. Whatever the case, celebrating Christmas was always fun, and one of my favorite holidays. It was the perfect celebration.
I thought Christmas would always be celebrated like those days of my childhood, but in marriage each family redefines their traditions. Some traditions are passed on, others are dropped and new ones are added. Here is what Christmas looks like for my family now.
It is a breeze to pass along the core of what it means to be hispanic to me: music and food! I make sure to play Spanish Christmas songs at home and the smell of cinnamon, cloves and orange from the ponche fills my home. I make the Mexican bunuelos, and have added Colombian bunuelos to the table to represent my husband’s culture. I am happy to have kept these traditions even if we are far from family and our party only includes my husband, my children and I.
There are other traditions, however, that are harder to keep. I refuse to dedicate two days to making tamales. Maybe when my kids are older I will have that luxury. I could even invite friends to help me! For now I will buy them if I can find them, but it may not be possible in my suburb where hispanics are only 7% of population. Another tradition that has been dropped is staying up past midnight on Christmas Eve. I loved this tradition as a child, but my kids are 3 and 4 years old. I don’t think they could stay up until midnight even if it is for presents. The truth is that I like the idea of the kids opening up their gifts Christmas morning….it makes it easier to explain that Santa brings the presents, it allows us to go to church on Christmas Eve and it takes the focus away from the presents.
Besides waiting until Christmas morning to open presents we are incorporating other American Christmas traditions like mailing Christmas cards. It makes sense with living so far from family (family: you won’t all get one because there are a zillion of you). We also now put up Christmas stockings, count down to Christmas on a Snowman’s wooden face and do Elf of the Shelf. At first I did not like Elf on the Shelf, but after I discovered that the Elf watches the children and reports back to Santa on their behavior, my husband and I decided it was worth a try. It could not hurt (and we can use the help). Also, the kids will pick out one ornament a year.
This is my new recipe for Christmas. A little of this and a little of that. I think it will come out alright! As I speak with other moms I am starting to understand that being a frazzled mom in December has less to do with trying to redesign our Christmas, and more to do with just trying to keep up with all the American traditions. Being frazzles is a something that comes with the territory. My mom friends in the suburbs have their A game out: awesome cookie recipes, the most clever Elf on the Shelf poses, DIY Pinterest Advent Caladers and I have just discovered keeping the Santa dream alive requires different wrapping paper and pen for the gifts from Santa. I am taking notes. Next year I hope for a smoother running Mexican, Colombian, American Christmas!