There’s a stack of Yuletide-themed coffee table books downstairs, with titles like Christmas Around the World and Norman Rockwell’s Christmas Book. It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for stories, particularly about holiday traditions. I find it fascinating how the way we celebrate says so much about us, and how faith can unite us regardless of what part of the globe we inhabit.
In recent years, I’ve learned about Iceland’s Christmas Eve book exchange (a tradition this bookworm would happily indulge in), about the summertime Christmas barbecues my Brazilian and Aussie colleagues grew up with, about Germany’s famous Advent and Christmas markets…
Having grown up in an immigrant family that has preserved its roots, I get the joy of celebrating Christ’s birth on Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve.
The evening starts with dinner with my extended family – which is a huge blessing in itself, since many of them live so far away. After too many helpings of bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers and flan, we all attend midnight Mass as a family.
My favorite tradition as of late (read: things that make me teary-eyed) is wishing my loved ones a Merry Christmas in front of the altar after Mass. It’s what I imagine heaven’s like.
We sing “Happy Birthday” to baby Jesus, eat cake, and open presents till early morning…starting with the gifts St. Nicholas leaves at the fireplace.
Each year my sweet mom runs into the house to check if Santa left us anything in the first place, while my aunts block the door to keep us from entering until they get the “all clear”. Whether Chippy and my youngest cousins still believe in the man with the bag is yet to be determined…but we keep the tradition going by writing our letters to St. Nicholas on December 6th.
As my sister and I get older, the subject of how we’ll spend the holidays when we have families of our own has come up a couple times – mostly in reference to acquaintances who’ve encountered sticky situations with their in-laws.
I’ll admit it freaks me out a bit to think of spending Christmas Eve anywhere else but here. However, my mom (who is simply wonderful) encourages us to create our own traditions when the time comes, and choose what works for us.