I remember the moment I realized the way Latino’s celebrate Christmas is unique. It wasn’t during all of the Christmas movies where everyone wakes up on Christmas morning and opens presents and gleefully goes out side to play with said presents. Not even realizing that is was insensitive to do Secret Santa and say Merry Christmas to my non Christian friends. No I realized that Christmas means something different to Latinos at my first job out of college.
I worked in a place where no one was guaranteed days off. It was basically a 24/7 operation and so you were expected to work holidays. This first year I didn’t have vacation time, home was over 3 hours away in the winter, and I hadn’t been home in months so I was looking forward to a couple days with my family. My heart dropped when a day before Christmas Eve I realized I didn’t get the 24th off. Only the 25th. My family never did anything on the 25th. The 25th was for sleeping in, eating leftovers and watching movie marathons. Christmas Eve was the real celebration and I was going to miss it. I nearly cried. Thankfully my manager let me off on the 24th. I don’t know what compelled his soul to allow me but I was thankful (it came back and bit me in the butt because the following year I had to work Thanksgiving, Christmas day and possibly NYE too. But I can’t remember for sure, those holidays were a blur of tears and frustration). I remember the whole time I worked there how appreciative I was of the people who worked the holidays and vowed I would not be the crazy person shopping on Thanksgiving day, Christmas Eve or Christmas day because our consumerism is why people don’t have time with their families! (Off my soap box now, back to the topic at hand)
Latino Christmas is where it’s at people. Ya’ll have the 12 days of Christmas starting Christmas day? We have Novenas starting 9 days before Christmas (Representing the 9 months Mary was pregnant) There’s posadas (which include prayer, singing, acting and of course food) leading up to Christmas Eve and then on the 24th? WE GET LIT. Think Thanksgiving but on steroids. All of the foods, all of the beverages (alcoholic and not), all of the family, music and games and then we all wait until midnight like crazies and watch all the kids open their gifts and play with their gifts for another 2 hours until THEY LITERALLY DROP FROM EXHAUSTION. It is the best holiday ever.
And really the celebration starts even before the 16th. Though it depends if you’re a Catholic Mexican but on December 12th we celebrate The Virgin de Guadalupe by honoring her with music, plays, dances and food. People prepare for that by also praying a rosary for days leading up to the 12th.
Christmas and the whole month of December really is a marathon-esque event.
So what is the main difference with Latino Christmas? A few differences you may notice here. We still technically open gifts on Christmas but there’s no sleeping time for Santa to “arrive” with presents. The fact that I even managed to believe in Santa when I was younger despite the obvious evidence is beyond me (why did we get our presents under the tree a week before but all of the other kids got their presents from Santa on the 24th while they were asleep? Logic that I somehow never seemed to question). Also what is with this pajama business? Christmas celebration is met with the same logic towards Sunday service. If you can get all dolled up to turn up with your friends you can get dolled up to celebrate the birth of our savior even if we’re just sitting at home. (I believe my mom said those words, I may be paraphrasing a little). There is no footie pajama business in this joint.
Christmas spent away from family as a Latino is especially hard. It’s not a day, it’s the whole ordeal and missing a part of it feels like you didn’t do Christmas right. That’s why this year I’m grateful I get to be here for all of if. From the first concheros dance until the last crumb is gone. Tomorrow we’re hosting the posada at our home and I’m excited to have my son see it. I’m grateful he has extended family in his life, something I always craved for and felt I was missing growing up, and I’m grateful that we’re all healthy and can spend the holiday together.
Christmas is my favorite holiday hands down. Not for the presents but for one simple message that came to me loud and clear every Christmas. That God’s glory is for everyone especially those who are poor, seeking refuge, or have been oppressed. And I pray that for your Christmas you feel God’s presence in your life and let the spirit of the Lord move you as it moves me every year around the 24th.
Feliz Navidad Amigos.