Monday, December 29, 2014

Tamales and Tradition: Tani's Christmas Post

Hey, y'all! It's Christmas — a time of tradition, hope, and most important, family. After all, we're celebrating how God joined our human family so that we could all have the hope of being together in Heaven! So, I'm going to make this post about family! Recently, I took to Facebook to ask about various Christmas traditions. Here are some of your answers:

Fellow Unpleasant Accents contributor Anna Skarzynska (United States, originally Poland): "Before we even start the meal, we have this thing called opłatki. It's like a sheet of wafer that's similar to what we use in church as the Host. Everyone gets one large sheet, and we go around the room and break off a tiny piece from another person's sheet, wishing them a wonderful year and telling them anything they did that made us proud. Oh, and also, Home Alone is watched after the meal every year without fail."
Mary Hirose (United States): "My parents took all four of us to Midnight Mass. We would wait for my mom in the car. She was notorious for being late. We loved the carolling before Mass. When we got home, Santa had ALWAYS visited. We would open our presents, drink eggnog or hot chocolate, and listen to Christmas music. We never went to bed before 4 a.m. Then, we would sleep the morning away. I can't wait to do this with my three girls."
Lovely Sheepishly (Philippines): "We have a special Christmas Mass called Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo. It's held usually before the cocks do the cock-a-doodle-doo, thus the name Gallo (rooster). My grandparents used to take us to church for the Novena Mass, and the first one in the pews to snore would be me. Hahaha. And afterwards, we'd wait for our freshly baked Bibingkas (rice cakes) and walked happily home... to sleep again. Those were my fondest memories of Christmas. It's a tradition for many families in my country."
As you can see, the main theme of all of these contributions is family. My family, too, has a lot of Christmas traditions. In the days leading up to the holiday, we have Advent calendars. In order to eat our daily piece of chocolate, we need to prove that we've done something equally sweet "for Jesus" that day. We decorate the house with garlands wrapped in colored lights and cover our mantel with nutcrackers, old ornaments, and a 40-year-old music box displaying Santa dancing to "Jingle Bells." Christmas music plays constantly from the speakers that are hidden all around the house.

"Remember: If you were naughty this year, I know where you live. Merry Christmas!"
For Christmas itself, we go to Mass the night before, listening to the epic Gloria located at the top of this post on the way and get up early the next morning. We used to be able to hang stockings on our fireplace, but now that there are eleven stockings to hang, we put them on our handmade, 10-foot-long dinner table. After the stockings are done, we open our normal presents (the ones from Santa wrapped in red tissue paper, displaying tags with handwriting remarkably similar to my dad's), and then, lunch! Here in Arizona, Christmas means tamales made of steamed corn dough wrapped around various yummy fillings, and horchata, a Mexican rice drink. When we're done stuffing ourselves, we go on a hike, often travelling to cattle ponds and abandoned corals in the mountains, holdovers from the days of the old Empire Ranch. Christmas is a day and a season that we spend laughing and remembering and simply being together.

As a Church, that sentiment is doubly true. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, in whom we are all joined together. As we all go to Mass, in different buildings and time zones, we join each other and all the Catholics who have gone before us, right on back to the people present at the Nativity itself. There, with the Eucharist, God made into man made into bread, each of us becomes like Mary, carrying Christ in ourselves. Each of us becomes like the Magi, searching for Christ with all our hearts and finding Him, humbly waiting for us. Each of us becomes like the angels, singing glory to God and presenting Him to the people of the world. Our family traditions, of incense and ancient antiphons, remind us of our past and yet also give us a glimpse of what's to come. We are all one family in Christ, all of our smaller family traditions blending into the wider traditions of the whole Church. So, join your family this Christmas season, both at home and in your parish, and celebrate together. 

And from my funky family to yours, Merry Christmas!

Do you realize how hard it is to get 13 people to smile at the camera at the same time?

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