By Indira Midha
With the holiday season quickly approaching, no matter what we celebrate, everybody likes to reminisce on their favorite family traditions and memories. Coming from a mixed-race family, I have had quite the nontraditional experience when it comes to the winter holiday season. Here are a few different traditions in my Hispanic-Indian-American family.
Shopping for compact gifts that won’t break in a suitcase.
When your family is all over the world, the holidays mean traveling. When coming up with presents for a huge family that must fit in a suitcase and not break while traveling thousands of miles on an airplane, one must be creative. Every inch of space counts, and you’d be surprised at how much thought, meaning and love you can put into something so small. Whether it’s buying your aunt that lipstick only available in the USA or getting your grandfather some cool vintage stamps, it’s a new challenge every year that I have come to look forward to.
Aloo Gobi at Christmas dinner.
When one or more of your family members is vegetarian, the typical pig roasted for Christmas dinner in my family becomes an insufficient main course. On my family’s dinner table there is always a plentiful spread of meats and cheeses from my uncle’s deli, some sort of salad, a full pig roasted with pin-nuts inside, and… Aloo Gobi, Indian cauliflower and potatoes. My vegetarian father makes the best of a tough situation, being vegetarian and marrying into a family that owns a deli. He always cooks this Indian main dish for himself, but makes enough for everyone to add a bit of his homeland to their plates.
No presents at Christmas: All presents come at Reyes. Presents come at night, not in the morning.
In Spain and many other Hispanic countries, Santa Claus is not the source of winter gifts. In my family, Los Reyes Magos, or the Three Wise Men, come to every house on the eve of January 6 and are traditionally supposed to leave gifts in children’s shoes. The tradition has progressed from leaving small gifts inside shoes to leaving larger gifts beside shoes. In my family, at my great aunt’s house in the mountains of Madrid, the ten kids and family puppy go to the town square to check out the nativity scene around one a.m. on January 6. By the time we get back, there are gifts set out by ten pairs of shoes and one leash. The house goes wild as everyone opens their presents.
April Fools’ Day is December 28.
December 28th is El Dia De Los Santos Inocentes, or the day of the innocent souls, in Spain. This is just like April Fools’ Day in the United States, except when you’re pranking someone, instead of saying “April Fools,” you chant “Inocente, inocente,” calling whoever fell for your prank innocent or naïve.
Grapes are eaten as the new year is counted down.
As the new year counts down and my family gathers around the television to watch the clock in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor strike midnight, everyone has a bowl of 12 grapes to ingest. In theory, this is a cute tradition, eating a grape as the clock strikes 12 times before the new year is crowned. In reality, however, swallowing 12 grapes in 12 seconds is hard. It’s a fun, mutual struggle each and every year. Once the new year is in effect, everyone drinks water or champagne to wash down their grapes and proceed to hug and kiss everyone.
Wishing you all a happy holiday season, no matter how you celebrate!
All photos courtesy of Indira Midha