For most Latinos the holidays aren’t over on New Year’s Day. The celebration goes for another week until the Three Kings Day. In many Latin American countries (and Spain) that’s when kids receive their gifts. The tradition is to have the kids leave water, grass and candy to the three kings and their camels. Instead, the kings leave gifts to the kids. Their role is similar to that of Santa. Kids write their wish list to the three kings and get their gifts based on how good or bad they behaved during the year. When we move to the US, we tend to forget our traditions and just melt into the materialism that invades the country from Black Friday until the New Year’s Day sales.
I am trying really hard to pass my Latino traditions to my kids. They totally love the Three Kings because it means that they get double gifts. They also enjoy the rituals that go with it. We prepare the manger for Baby Jesus based on our acts of kindness. Pretty much the straws represent our acts of kindness. The more straws we add to the bed, the more comfortable it will be for the baby upon arrival. The kids can make a concrete correlation between the facts that really matter and Christmas. They also get to focus on something different than the spirit of consumerism that too often reigns during this period.
Another tradition that we love is the Aguinaldos. This year a group of my friends from Washington Heights decided to get together to sing villancicos (Christmas carols), play games and break bread. My kids had so much fun. It was great for them to meet their new primos (cousins). The minute they got together, it felt like a big family. We reconnected like we never stopped seeing each other and the old memories, the songs, the food and the flavors lifted our spirits in a way I cannot describe. I was so proud of the fact that my kids knew a lot of the songs.
Last but not least, I enjoy our Navidad food with the kids. Back when I was a child I remember how Christmas smelled. It was something so clear in my mind and so alive that I had to find a way to replicate those perfumes. This year I decided to bring our foods back to the table no matter how fatty they were. I realized that I’ve moved away from Navidad due to excuses that didn’t resonate with who I really was. Diet, balanced meals, healthy menu, savings and all those concepts are new in my vocabulary. They were all deleted from my brainwashed frame of thoughts during this Christmas. I started to cook ensalada rusa (russian salad), pernil, coquitos, pasteles en hoja, almendras rellenas, gomitas and so forth. Finally the (my) smell of Navidad came back to my home.
Do you try to bring your traditions to your kids? Do you still celebrate the Three Kings? I can’t wait to hear from you!