5 Latinx Parents Tell Us How They Keep Holiday Traditions Alive in Their Multicultural Homes

Here's how moms and dads are merging their cultures and backgrounds to create new holiday traditions for the whole familia.

An image of families.
Photo: Courtesy of families.

One of my favorite things about growing up in a big Puerto Rican family has always been Nochebuena. Growing up, that night was all about Nana making pasteles in the kitchen, Johnny Ventura playing on the stereo, and 15 cousins running around my Nana's Bronx apartment. These gatherings were loud, boisterous, and filled with lots of coquito. We'd dance the night away, getting food-drunk on pernil, arroz con gandules, alcapurria, pastelillos, and any other goodies nana whipped up. In comparison, Christmas morning was low-key: fresh arepas being dunked in steaming tazas de cafe (Cafe Bustelo ONLY), opening presents, and screaming like banshees over the toys Santa had brought us.

When I became a mom it was important for me to keep these rich, vibrant traditions alive for my daughter—and, proudly, not a single Nochebuena has gone by that she hasn't had our customary foods or had her wheelchair twirled around in a million directions while dancing to "Aguinaldos Navideño." But with my daughter being half Black, I wanted her to be familiar with how the other side of her family celebrates. Even if I am single-momm'ing it!

It wasn't until I spent the holidays with her father's African American family in Houston that I learned how different people's celebrations could actually be. His family gatherings were all about the gumbo, the mac 'n' cheese, the cakes on Christmas, and black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year's Day! Not having grown up with any of those foods for the Christmas holidays, I recently tried my hand at the black-eyed peas. Let's just say we'll have to find another way to celebrate the other half of my daughter's culture during Christmas. Maybe I'll try my hand at Aunt Althea's famous 7Upcake!

Curious about las tradiciones of other Latinx families, I did some asking around to see how other families are keeping their customs alive, particularly when sharing the holidays with a partner of a different culture. One thing is for certain: We love our food!

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Blended and New

LGBTQIA Latinx family

Parents: Adriana "Addie" Gonzales, Mexican and Jennifer Sturzenegger, European American

Kids ages: 11 & 3

City: Sahuarita, Arizona

"Growing up, I moved around a lot, but Christmas was always the same: watch movies, look at lights on Christmas Eve, and open one present before bed," says Jen Sturzenegger, a teacher in Sahuarita, Arizona. But when she and wife Addie Gonzales, also a teacher, became a blended family and began fostering children, they created traditions of their own. "We still incorporate my Mexican heritage of tamales and having the big party on Christmas Eve," says Gonzales, but new traditions all their own have also been introduced. According to Gonzales, "We also get matching family pajamas, go to our favorite neighborhood to look at the lights, and the youngest kid in the family gets to put the star on the tree." And according to Sturzenegger, "Absolutely no presents on Christmas Eve—not even peeking at the tree Christmas morning until everyone is awake. Then party number two begins!"

02 of 04

It's All About The Menu

multicultural family with kids
Juli and Duce Williams.

Parents: Juli Williams, Colombian and Duce Williams, African American and Bahamian

Kids ages: 6 and 4

City: Miami

For Juli and Duce Williams, Christmas has been about merging her small family traditions from Colombia with his large family traditions from across the southern states, and the Bahamas. "I grew up with my family roasting a whole pig for dinner! Duce's family, on the other hand, covered the dining room table with bags, and had an entire seafood boil," says Juli Williams. Today, they don't roast a whole pig for their children, but Colombian Ajiaco and crab are definitely still on the menu. "Our 6-year-old daughter understands that on December 24 we speak Spanish and celebrate Colombian Navidad, but then we're all (even my parents!) are going to Grandma and Grandpa [Williams] on the 25. Our 4-year-old is a bit too young to connect the dots."

03 of 04

Culture Shock

multicultural family

Parents: Conz Preti, Argentinian and Zach Hefferen, white

Kids ages: 3 and 1

City: Highland Lake, Maine

Mom of three, Conz Preti, is all about sharing her Spanish, Argeninian, and Brazilian traditions with her kids and husband, Zach Hefferen, a stay-at-home dad. "You have to eat twelve grapes, at midnight, in under a minute for luck. You must wear pink underwear on New Year's Eve to attract love in the coming year. And you must wear white on New Year's Eve because it attracts good energy," says Preti, Insider's parenting and health editor. While the list of traditions were a shock to Hefferen at first, he embraced them wholeheartedly. Although you won't find them waking their 3-and-a-half-year-old and 1-and-a-half-year-old twins at midnight to open presents.

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Two Is Better Than One

multicultural family

Parents: Patricia Valoy, Dominican and Sammy Isaac, Egyptian

Kid's age: 3

City: New York

Like many blended families, Patricia Valoy and her husband, Sammy Isaac, are raising their 3-year-old daughter, Amalia, to know and understand both of their cultures—and Christmas is no exception. Valoy, raised in New York City, grew up celebrating Nochebuena with her Dominican family, but Sammy, having been raised in Egypt, doesn't celebrate Christmas until January 7! "Christmas trees aren't big in either of our cultures, but we hope our daughter will know that even without one, she'll still have all the other awesome cultural things about the holidays," says Valoy. "Like Angelito, my family's version of Secret Santa, which has always been my favorite, and the giving of money as a gift from Sammy's side of the family, which is his favorite. She'll basically have two Christmases."

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