Our Most Cherished Holiday Traditions

Happy holidays, everyone!

This time of year is our absolute favorite! In fact, we spend the rest of the year talking and dreaming about Christmas, wishing it would come sooner! Over the years of being a couple, we have developed a number of traditions together, and even adapted those traditions of our previous generations to carry on ourselves!

Both of us happen to be the same mix of ethnicities, but nothing resonates more with us (independently and also as a couples) than that of our hispanic roots. Nick's mother is 100% Mexican, and Jenna's father is 100% as well, actually being born and raised for many years in Mexico. Culturally, Christmas is a very big deal for Mexicans.

 

Family Traditions:

Familiar with tamales? I thought you might be. In our family, we don't just go to the store and buy them... not at all. We spend hours making them from scratch! This usually takes 5 or 6 family members at once, working together to assemble each and every little bundle of delicious meats and masa. Nick's mom is basically super woman and plays a major role in the making of our beloved tamales every year! (Thank you, Mary! We love you!)

Jenna's Dad is the salsa guy. He doesn't just bring the salsa to our family gatherings, but he brings MULTIPLE salsas to our family gatherings! One that's super spicy, and one that's more mild - one that's a bit chunkier, and one that's more finely chopped. None of us can seem to get enough of Dad's delicious salsa. In fact, we beg him to make it for us all year long! For real.

Nick and Jenna's Traditions:

If we're being honest, there's an entire double-door closet in our house that is completely filled up, housing our Christmas decorations. We don't mess around when it comes to this holiday... at all. Fake trees? No way. We only deal with the real thing! Be it a 3ft little fella, or a massive 7ft monster, we accept and love all Christmas trees in this household. Decorating the tree is a huge deal for us too. With one of our favorite holiday films playing in the background, we dig through the boxes of ornaments and decor we've collected from our global travels - recalling countless memories together as we unwrap and delicately hang each bobble onto our tree. We also open one present each together on Christmas Eve, leaving the bulk of our presents to be unwrapped on Christmas morning.

And food! We haven't even scratched the surface of describing the major role that food plays in our holiday delights!

Christmas Eve usually takes place at our house. This is a wonderful little tradition that we started after moving into our first home together. Our close family (Nick's mother and father + Jenna's Dad, Dr. Brother and sister-in-law) come over to our house where we all gather around, watching old Christmas movies (Holiday Inn, White Christmas, etc.) and snacking on the variety of Christmas-themed dishes we have prepared for them. 

Our Christmas Day celebrations take place in two locations - our house and Nick's grandfather's house. In the morning, we host a breakfast for Jenna's Dad where we enjoy cartoon character shaped waffles, and other treats of that nature while watching the Disneyland Christmas Parade on TV. Jenna really cherishes this tradition because it's something she's done with her Dad for many years, as they share a long history of affection for Disney! (But I'm sure you already knew that! ;) )

With one meal checked off, we head over to Nick's grandfather's house to be greeted by the wafting fragrance of his grandfather's famous rice and beans - all traditionally made from scratch. In the air, there's also a hint of masa and meats belonging to the tamales, soon to be consumed alongside the rice and beans. Just another memory that we cling to throughout the long months of January to November. You can't just buy these meals made with love and elbow grease, they're handcrafted and soaked in year and years of family tradition. Everyone contributes something, and we all love to bring our specialty dish to share with the rest of the family. This year, the two of us are in charge of contributing a dessert, and with the bar set so high, you can best believe we won't be skimping on authenticity. We'll be bringing Jenna's Dad's absolutely all-time favorite, rice pudding. We've even decided to kick it up a notch and create a slightly more fun version of( much to Nick's liking) - Coffee Rice Pudding! Exciting!! The recipe is from La Lechera's website, where you can find an incredibly long list of amazing recipe ideas, all using their authentic, traditional products! 

Jenna's Dad told us this story a while back, about how he was one of the smallest kids in his family, and he remembers the cans of La Lechera usually sat on the lowest shelf in the grocery store. So his mother always made him responsible for collecting that item on shopping trips. He remembers as a young child, how she always had it in their house and used it for all his favorite dishes. It's funny how even after years pass by, we carry on with our traditions and letting them hold emotional value, and even special memories.

Our parents all love to sit around the table and tell stories about when they were kids, what their parents used to do, how their siblings used to drive them crazy - you know just the kind of things I'm talking about. This is when we, as a younger generation struggle not to spit our food out from laughing so hard, or roll our eyes at all the silliness our parents get themselves into at the meals goes on. These are where the fondest memories are made! Standing around in the kitchen chatting, having to pull out spare chairs, benches, and stools from the garage just to make room for everyone around the table or room. You can barely hear yourself think because of all the excited voices, sharing experiences or just catching up!

Our Christmas season is so food-centric that it's fair to say it's the glue that holds this magical time of year together! We come together to plan, cook, and then enjoy our meals as a family. It is something so deeply special to us, and also something we consciously work towards carrying on ourselves.

Another fantastic part about our holiday traditions, there's always leftovers, so everyone gets to take home a few extra bites of their favorite dish!

Okay, so maybe it's not technically a tradition but we're pretty happy about it!

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