The holiday season can be challenging for bilingual and bicultural families such as ours. My daughters are now 8 years old. From the get-go, I worked hard to foster the Spanish and Latino culture (our heritage). I naively believed that if I did that, I’d be set by the time they started elementary school. As it turns out, this is only partly true. My girls speak Spanish perfectly and are proud of being Latinas, but they still prefer speaking English. I find myself repeating constantly, “En español!”
Culturewise, however, I dare to say that they are a beautiful mix of both cultures. The holiday season is truly when we get to see that fully, as we honor all of our family traditions.
Our holiday season starts with Thanksgiving. I attended an “American” school back in my home country of the Dominican Republic. I was aware of the festivities, but I did not celebrate Thanksgiving growing up. As my daughter Adriana pointed out the other day “Mami, of course, there were no pilgrims there.”
It wasn’t until I moved to the United States that I officially started participating. Embracing the idea of Thanksgiving was very easy for me, but we do celebrate it a bit differently. First of all, we usually celebrate twice (Yes! We get to be thankful for eating yummy foods two days in a row. Insert dance moves here.)! This is largely because our extended family is so big, which makes it difficult for everyone to be available at the same time. So, we celebrate our big Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday night at my in-law’s place. Jokingly, we call this first celebration “SanGivin” because you can feel the Latino flare everywhere. Those festivities are followed up with a “petite committee” Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. It’s held either at my aunts’ house or the home of a close family friend. It tends to be a bit more American-style.
Another unique aspect of our holiday season is our tree. By the time the second Thanksgiving comes around, our Christmas tree is already up! Many people ask with concern or judgment, “What happened to Thanksgiving?” They somehow assume that we do not place the “expected” importance on the Thanksgiving holiday.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. In our home, we all love Thanksgiving. Our family gives thanks to God for all our blessings. And for me, this ties in perfectly with Christmas, which is all about Him too. Religion aside, Thanksgiving is truly one of the most beautiful gifts this country has given us. I love the focus on taking time to be thankful for all that we have. And I appreciate the time to connect with family. Given today’s hectic schedules, it can be hard to make space for opportunities when we can just be present, when we can just be aware, and when we can just…BE.
Making the Holidays Our Own
During our holiday season, it’s not about Christmas/Navidad undermining Thanksgiving. It’s about making adjustments that reflect our culture. It’s about mixing the old and the new. It’s about creating our own beautiful traditions.
As an example, I wasn’t too sold on the newest Elf on the Shelf tradition. I thought it failed to reflect the true meaning of Christmas. And, honestly, I did not want the extra work! Ultimately, however, I caved, and the girls love it. So now, we celebrate el Niño Jesus, Santa Claus, the Elf on the Shelf and Los Reyes Magos. For us, the holiday season is not about choosing and limiting but about embracing and being open. It’s about welcoming new traditions and bringing on all celebrations. It’s about love and family, which is probably the only constant we never want to change.
Making the Holidays Your Own
As you begin your holiday season, I hope you enjoy making it as unique and authentic as your own family is. If you embrace that approach, it will be reflected in every aspect of your celebrations. In our case, you can particularly feel the holidays through music. So, I want to share with you our very own Navidad/Christmas playlist. Enjoy!
If you happen to be looking for good Latino Christmas activities to do with your kiddos, check out our Mundo Lanugo animated villancicos, our Mundo Lanugo en Navidad app and our website for free printables.