Abuelita used to tell me all about Navidad (Christmas) as I helped place her plastic Nativity set inside the mock barn Abuelo had built and painted white. It was nestled alongside a plastic version of Santa Claus in a sleigh along with his Reindeer which included Rudolph.
This very clash of American and Catholic culture was unknown to me at that time. I just knew it was over 80 degrees sometimes and I was putting up lights. Some years, like this year, it was cold. Thin skinned Texans complain profusely about it being 80 degrees in November and then proceed to complain how cold it is in December at 60 degrees. We are a full of contradictions.
As I placed Baby Jesus in the manager and watched as his pale white skin glowed in the falling Texas light, I never questioned “Why?”. Why did we place two different culture icons side by side?
Our Christmas Eve was also a blend of American and Mexican Catholic traditions so ingrained in me that I never knew that there were other ways to celebrate Christmas. I was poor, monetary wise, growing up or rather sometimes even lower middle class. We would gather this one night to share food, family, and love.
I remember the night before having to make Tamales with Abuela, my Tias, and my mom. I remember feeling the greasy, grainy dough in my fingers as we massaged it until it formed. Old, school style as Abuela hand cranked her meat grinder combining the newly killed venison and pork together. Vinegar, chiles, pepper, and steam filled the small ranch kitchen those nights before Christmas Eve.
One Christmas Eve I would help Abuela by making the Pan De Polvo that would grace our tables and she allowed me to bake a cake or other “American” treat to accompany our traditional menu. I never knew it wouldn’t always be like this and that a whole generation of cooking would soon be lost.
Christmas Eve Menu as I remember:
Pan De Polvo
Capriatodo for Abuelo
American Stuff I made for Abuela
Cheese and Sausage Appetizers
Chocolate Chip Cookies
One Sugar Free Cake for Abuela to eat.
Memories that come back with the smell of cinnamon and sugar as I prepare for our first Christmas in our very own Home. What types of menus and memories do you have about Christmas?