Natalie Yusem / Word Painter
My Mexican family loves Christmas and we have always had our traditions of opening presents at midnight and eating tamales on Christmas Eve. However, I secretly always wished to celebrate Christmas the American way by making turkey for dinner, opening presents on Christmas morning, and having my stocking overflow with sweet treats.
As much as I wanted my American Christmas, I could not strike up the courage to tell my family I wanted to change traditions. Deep down, I knew that those traditions were a way for my parents to stay connected to Mexico, even if we were 3,000 miles away.
At Christmas when I turned twelve years old, I don’t know what light sparked my mother, but she was a madwoman at every craft store and Christmas tree shop she could find. She even bought supplies to make our stockings with our names on them.
When Christmas Eve finally rolled around, my mom gave us each matching pajamas and probably paid my dad to put his on. The mouthwatering aroma of pineapple and ham was coming out of the oven. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that tamales were not being served for dinner.
Later that night, I jumped out of my seat to open my presents. My mother said, “No no no, we’re not opening presents tonight you will have to wait until the morning,” I could not believe it.
We went to bed fairly early; it felt like I did a lap around the sun that night because my eyes would not shut — the anticipation got the best of me. That morning I bolted out of bed, ran to my parent’s bedroom, and begged for them to wake up.
I opened all of my presents and made breakfast with my new Easy-Bake Oven. Later that day I realized how much I missed eating tamales and listening to Mexican music until 1 a.m.
With all the reluctance in the world I went up to my mother’s ear and whispered, “Can we have Mexican Christmas back next year?” And she replied saying, “Claro, Mija.”
(Published November 2021)