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A Mexipino Christmas

To say holidays are stressful on everybody is an understatement. It seems like our blood pressure rises just a little bit on what is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Personally, I love Christmas but logistically it can make my pressure rise a tad. My lovely family is a blend of two cultures. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your taste preference that means I have two of everything. Two different ways to celebrate the holidays.

In the Philippines, Christmas celebrations begin September the 1st! I am that person that plays Christmas music on November 1st and will have our tree up, decorated, lit and even completed with wrapped gifts before the rest of the world thinks about what to put on their Thanksgiving menu.

Side note, my toddler has made it difficult to try to be Buddy from Elf this year, much to the delight of my husband.

I remember growing up in the Philippines and doing the traditional ‘namamasko.’

There’s absolutely no English translation for this phrase because it encompasses so much; caroling, going door to door celebrating with your family, friends and neighbors. It’s like a big party that celebrates not just Christ’s birth but love, giving and family.

When I moved to Texas, imagine my disappointed heart to hear that people don’t do those things here. There are no carolers or block parties. People retreat to their homes decked out only for other family members, or their Instagram/Facebook followers to see.

While my dreams of caroling ended when I was nine, I still get to keep some traditions, namely food.

Pancit, or rice noodles, is served no matter what holiday we’re celebrating; so are white rice and eggrolls. My mom is still in charge of making dinner, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to help and ensure that our family recipes get passed down. She’ll make putos, which is a rice muffin. Depending on how much your family wants to “splurge,” there may or may not be lechon, roast pig, on the table at Christmas time. For the past few years, our main dish depends on what my American brother-in-law decides to cook and he usually serves deep fried Turkey every year. We do serve some American foods, like ham, macaroni and cheese and green bean casserole but mostly, our table is full of traditional Filipino dishes which I love since I don’t have them very often and always brings back childhood memories.

We’re also Roman Catholics and as such, we go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, then come home and open presents. This used to make Christmas Day very anticlimactic for me but for the past decade, we’ve been going on little sleep and driving to my husband’s Mexican side to celebrate our second Christmas and eat our second meal.

As I have said before, logistically, it’s a mess. There have been some Christmas Eves that we’ve had to drive from one family festivity to another before making it to midnight mass. His family does the traditional posadas. I’ve searched my friend Google for this translation but it depends on each family’s tradition. On Christmas Eve, we go to someone’s house, say the rosary in front of the nativity and then baby Jesus is passed around for the faithful to kiss. A small bag of peanuts, trinkets and candy is passed out to everyone who attended.

Afterwards, dinner is served. I have no idea where tamales is placed in order of importance in a Mexican household but this girl is grateful that every holiday, I get to eat tamales. Much like my mother, my mother-in-law, mi suegra, is the one in charge of dishes. She usually makes four different kinds of tamales: chicken, cheese, pork and cheese with jalapeno pepper. There will be arroz, or Mexican rice, frijoles, or beans. It’s also common knowledge that my husband, as the first born and only son in the family, is the favorite child. His mom prepares pozole, or chicken soup with hominy, during our holiday stay.

This is a pretty gluttonous time of the year for us and I’m glad that my children get to grow up in such diverse environment. No matter what is served on our tables, how much or how little they appreciate it or now, I am grateful that both families embrace the loud, chaotic messes of their culture.

But let’s be honest here, every day is loud and chaotic for this Mexipino household. We just eat a lot more during the holidays.

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