In part 5 of our “Mi Navidad” series, Paul shares about continuing the search for Christ through invitation even after Christmas Day.
In my Mexican culture, the Christmas season is a time of closeness and invitation. Our focus on the birth of Jesus starts on December 16, nine days before Christmas Eve, to commemorate the trials of Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and the nine days of her pregnancy. Each night, family friends would invite us over to their home to sing carols with lyrics asking if there was any space to spend the night. After singing that for a while, the host family would sing back to us and invite us inside for dinner, fun, and community. It was through this process that I learned why invitation is so important to our culture, especially during this season of giving. We would repeat this process each evening at a different family’s home up until Christmas Eve. On the last night we'd also break open a piñata because it was Jesus' birthday!
Normally during this time, these families would grow very close because we also spent our days together making tamales by the hundreds to share with extended family and friends in the neighborhood. Not only were these things delicious, but they also took a ton of work, which helped us as kids focus on the sacrifices our parents make to do everything possible to give us a better life.
On Christmas Eve my immediate family would gather together late in the evening to share a meal – not a fancy one – and then open gifts while celebrating the blessing of being together. The fun doesn’t stop there though because we actually celebrate the twelve days of Christmas as well (not like the strange song with chickens and fruit)!
Since Santa Claus isn’t designed to cater to many Hispanics, we look forward to the coming of the Reyes Magos (the Three Wise Men) who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Our idea is that if Jesus got presents, so did we! Therefore, we would write our wish lists to the kings and then we’d wait. After what felt like an eternity from Christmas day to January 6, the Reyes Magos would eventually come through and deliver the gifts we’d been waiting for.
To celebrate the arrival of the kings and the gifts we’d gather once more with family and friends to share a huge cake, the rosca de reyes. The rosca is essentially an edible wreath or crown that’s been decorated with fruit and houses a surprise inside – a tiny baby figurine stuffed inside of the bread. If you happened to be the lucky person to bite into the toy, you also gained the obligation of hosting another party on February 2nd!
I hope to keep these traditions with my own family in the future because parties are a perfect opportunity to gather in community and have fun, while focusing on the coming of Jesus.
Paul Gomez is the Manager, Hispanic/Latino Seeker Communications at United Methodist Communications. He hails from Las Vegas, NV and currently lives in Nashville, TN.
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