In Part 2 of our Mi Navidad series we explore Andres' culture and perspective on celebrating the birth of Jesus during the holiday season.
My experience with celebrating the holiday season comes from a variety of identities that I carry with me. As a 1.5 generation Afro-Colombian immigrant, Christmas season comes with many different types of anticipations. Unlike some of my US-born peers, living within a Latin American family means that we bring our version of Christmas celebrations to our US context. Christmas not only becomes a day to spend with family, but a day to reconnect with family members back in my home country. For us, Christmas truly begins the day before, during Christmas Eve. On this day we, as a family, attend church with other Latinos, where the day is spent eating and sharing a variety of foods from each others culture. Christmas Eve has rarely been a time that has been spent with just the immediate family. Much like the saying goes, Familia, does not fully translate to Family in English. For us as Latinos, Familia means cousins, second cousins, even loosely related aunts that you never speak to throughout the year. On the 24th, the community around you becomes familia, and bread is broken with people who may not look like you, but share the same table for fellowship and story-telling.
This dynamic may also speak to the often times economically deprived reality of many Latin Americans. But we like to replace what we often lack in money, with food and festivities. When I speak to my Latino friends about what they did for Christmas, they will likely talk about the festivities of the 24th and not so much on what occurred on actual Christmas day. However, as the clock strikes 12 AM, the gift-wrapped presents received the day of Christmas become the last addition of a full day of celebration and community. This was and continues to be my reality on Christmas break in the US. But stepping outside of my immediate enclave I've learned that other communities share much different experiences and expressions of Christmas. Whether Christmas is filled with images of the nativity scene, or simply a day to buy gifts for loved ones, I believe all of these expressions are important to the arrangement of the US and the people within it.
Andres De Arco is a student at American University in Washington, DC. Prior to attending college on the east coast, he lived in Ohio where he was and continues to be extremely active in his local congregation. Andres has a strong passion towards seeking social justice for marginalized populations and is set to change the world.