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Family Christmas Traditions

We’ve watched the Frozen Christmas short, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” enough times for me to memorize the lyrics to the finale musical number, “When We’re Together.” The gist of this Frozen spin-off is it’s the first Christmas in forever and the sisters plan a huge Christmas surprise party for the people of Arendelle to celebrate the ringing of the holiday bell, but after the bell, everyone leaves to celebrate their family traditions. The Frozen sisters are devastated and realize they don’t remember having their own family Christmas traditions, outside of ringing the ceremonial bell. Olaf becomes determined to find the sisters a Christmas tradition and sets off to learn the traditions of the people of Arendelle for ideas.

Spoiler alert: They find out their tradition. It’s building a snowman.

This short makes me think about our family traditions for the holidays. There are obvious traditions, the ones practiced by the majority of Christmas celebrating households, like putting up a tree, hanging stockings, and other holiday decors. The biggest of all, of course, is the opening of presents on Christmas morning. Then, there are the personalized traditions unique to individual families. These choices include activities, specific foods for particular meals, visiting or inviting extended family, and so forth. These choices are often cultural or passed down from the childhoods of the parents.

The main things from my childhood that I am sharing with my children is a daily rendition of “El Burrito Sabanero” (I am, after all, a Cuban-Chilean girl from Miami) and recounting the story of the wise men visiting Jesus after his birth. Thanks to the Little People nativity scene, I have props for my storytelling.

One of Andy’s family traditions growing up is homemade menudo and tamales. He’s half white and half Mexican, born and raised in El Paso, Texas. Menudo is a breakfast soup/stew made from an assortment of dried chilis, tripe, and hominy. It is a laborious process to make. I had never eaten menudo until Andy and I got together. It’s an acquired taste and the tripe has a chewiness similar to calamari. I find it delicious. Yesterday, Andy tried making menudo from scratch for the first time and it came out so good! We will be eating menudo for several meals in the days to come.

Today, I will be making tamales from scratch for the first time. I’ve had a pork butt roast cooking in the slow cooker and I’ll be making the masa from scratch. I know it’s an ambitious process, but if all goes well, I’ll have a detailed tamale blog post for Christmas 2021.

A tradition I started last year was baking sugar cookies with the kids last year and having a cookie-decorating party. We had lots of fun with cousin Jack last year with rolling, baking, and decorating the cookies. Baby Levi and Baby Hazel were too little to participate so it was just Jack and Maggie, with some help from both grandmas. This year, I did it with Hazel solo. Maggie had to skip it because, with the keto diet, it was too risky for a meal slip.

For Christmas dinner, I plan to roast a leg of lamb with pomegranates, whipped potatoes, and asparagus. There have been years where I’ve made ham or a fancy beef roast with horseradish. This year, I decided on roasting lamb. I like the symbolism of using lamb because Jesus being the lamb of God. For dessert, I’ll make a chocolate Yule cake.

This year, many of our traditions are going to be different just given the reality of COVID. Our Christmas church service will be conducted through Zoom. We won’t be celebrating with extended family, and we wouldn’t be even if we were still in Texas. Yet, some of the traditions we are starting this year will return year after year, including homemade menudo and tamales.


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