Creating Traditions, but Keeping It Simple

Josie, Izzy Ortega and family

¡Feliz año nuevo! and ¡Feliz Navidad!


In our family, Christmas is not over. The twelve day season extends through New Year’s Day until Dia De Reyes, or Epiphany, when the three wisemen traditionally deliver gifts to Mexican children, before continuing on their way to find Baby Jesus.

Josie Ortega, Izzy Ortega and oldest daughterThree Kings Day shares similarities to a visit from Santa Claus: instead of stockings, children place their shoes outside; and instead of milk and cookies for the jolly old elf, they make sure to leave hay for the camels.

I never did this growing up. But multicultural families like ours can have the best of both worlds, and now my kids find gifts from St. Nick and Los Reyes Magos—excellent bookends to the Christmas season.

The holidays present a natural opportunity to create family traditions and incorporate elements of my husband’s Mexican culture. (I’m less worried about equal time for American culture, or Southern culture or things from my family of origin, since that’s the dominant culture we live in and likely what I’d naturally do.)

I try to be intentional about creating this balance, and find it fun and interesting to research these new-to-me traditions. There are plenty to choose from.

We’ve enjoyed these children’s books that showcase Mexican or Latino holiday traditions:

Nine Days to Christmas: A Story of Mexico

The Legend of the Poinsettia

The Night of Las Posadas

Los Reyes Magos

N is for Navidad

And here’s a list of New Year’s Eve ideas from Latin America.

As we merge traditions and sort through many good options, the holidays can also be stressful. Unfortunately all the fun things to do, to bake, and to buy can pile up into overwhelming stress and anxiety, especially in a family with young children.

Simple Holidays

For the holidays to remain a time to enjoy peace and goodwill, rather than anything but, it helps me to keep things simple.

Here are three valuable suggestions:

1.  Look at the calendar.

I like thinking of Advent as a time of preparation, as it traditionally is in the liturgical year, and trying to extend Christmas its full twelve days through Epiphany. (As this author points out, you can get great toy prices this way!)

We also have two birthdays to celebrate in December, as well as school programs, New Year’s events, and family visits. We pencil it all in and try have a realistic view of the calendar and what’s possible. Then:

Next- #2 Establish Order of Operations and #3 Engage the Senses (i.e. Food)…and more photos!


Mi Mamá Es Una Brava

Mi Mamá Es Una Brava

She was fierce, unapologetic, unselfish and brava. Editor's note: This is a reprise piece from Gaby Alcantara Diaz remembering her late parents and brother.   Over 21.2 million (all) immigrant women reside in the United States since 2013 with many traveling by foot,...

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