Leaving Pumpkin Empanadas for Santa

“My mom is half Mexican, and we make tamales every year for Christmas – but we also make empanadas, and I don’t know why, and I have never known why, and I asked and my mom was just like ‘I’m pretty sure it’s ‘cause we like them,’ because it’s not a Christmas tradition to make empanadas, but we make pumpkin ones, I think just ‘cause my great-grandma was like “… cool!” or like someone at some point wanted to. Um, but my whole life we’d leave those instead of cookies for Santa [laugh] – yeah, pumpkin empanadas – um, and my poor father – [he] does not like them, but was in charge of making it look like Santa had taken a bite of them […] and then we would be like ‘wow, he didn’t like the empanadas, he only ate a little bit!’ […] It became like a cool thing, we had an elf on the shelf for a while and my sisters would get really excited – my sisters would make like a little miniature empanada for him [laugh] and we would leave that out because, you know, they leave on Christmas Eve […] It’s like a sort of personalized ritual, it feels very, like, the immigrant experience to Americanize a tradition like that and it’s like ‘oh, leave them out for Santa’ […] But, yeah, that’s a Christmas thing that we do.”

Context: The informant is a college student living in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA.

Interpretation: This seems to be a unique combination of Mexican foodways and the Christmas tradition of leaving food out for Santa on Christmas Eve (which may not have an equivalent in traditionally Mexican celebrations of Christmas). The informant speaks of this fondly, which leads me to think it has been a fun and unique way for her family to blend Mexican and American Christmas tradition, rather than one stifling the other.