I will never forget the first time my husband celebrated Christmas with my family. To say he was overwhelmed is an understatement. He sat in the corner sweating and looking confused. I have 24 first cousins and when you add in their spouses and children, it just gets to be a big, loud crowd. Just the thought of it makes me smile.
My big, fat Mexican family celebrates a traditional Mexican Christmas that includes tamales, chocolate and vanilla atole – similar to hot chocolate – and of course, more family. The house was filled to every corner with people laughing, there’s always way too many people sitting at one table, kids are running around and grandpa is handing out envelopes to every grandchild. He would joke, “One of you has a $100 bill!” We all would race to open them in hopes it would be our envelope.
One of my earliest Christmas memories is of helping my great grandma make tamales. I had to be about 3 years old as I stood around a table with my grandma, my grandpa, my mom and my great aunts, spreading the masa on the cornhusks. I learned very early on that you have to spread it on a certain way, otherwise great grandma would fire you. We then filled them with cheese, pork and chile and let them steam on the stove. The anticipation of eating one of the first tamales out of the pot gets me every year.
Both of my grandmothers have continued the tradition of making tamales at Christmas. They both love to watch their family eat and drink the food they prepare with their hands. My oldest son is starting to understand that this is one of our family traditions and he will help in the tamale making and eating this year.
Now that we’re grown, my cousins and I do not see each other as often. We have our own families, and some have moved across the country. But we never miss Christmas with grandma’s tamales and atole. Now, it’s our kids running to the stove for that first bite!