Tag Archives: christmas

Christmas Punch


M, 56, is from Mexico; he was born and raised in Tijuana but spent a great part of his youth in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. M has been living in Cabo for over 30 and has owned a clothing store there for just as long. He told me of a Christmas tradition he developed on his own in which he makes punch and hands it out to the people that visit his store.


I’m going to tell you about the punch that I make every year on December 24th, back home in Cabo San Lucas. Since the early 90s, I began the tradition of offering a drink, punch, which is a Mexican beverage. Every Christmas Eve from noon to nightfall, I give every customer that passes by my store a cup of freshly made hot punch. I do this because it is a Mexican tradition to make Christmas punch, but I also got this idea from my aunts in the U.S. that have a tradition of making apple cider and distributing it at winter holiday events. In Mexico, we don’t do apple cider, but we do have punch, which is similar enough. It is also a demonstration of gratitude and a marketing tactic for my customers. This punch is mostly made of tropical fruits, many of them endemic to Mexico. Some of the ingredients I use are guavas, apples, oranges, pears, sugar cane, tamarind, tejocotes, piloncillo, cinnamon, hibiscus, etc. To make this punch I use a 5–8-gallon pot and boil water, then I add all the ingredients and let it simmer for half an hour. Once all the fruit essence is infused, I add piloncillo to my liking to sweeten the punch. Then it is ready to serve. I know many cultures have their version of a hot fruity drink for the winter; America has apple cider and Europe has Vin Chaud or Gluhwein, but in Mexico we have punch, plus, it’s non-alcoholic. I think this tradition is tied up with many other environmental elements such as the decorations, the cheerfulness, the Christmas carols and music, and the smells; all together they make Christmas more like Christmas. I think the Christmas spirit is about generosity which is why it is so special to give things to people who don’t expect them.


This holiday tradition shows how a larger and more common tradition can be adopted and altered so it can be performed differently by various individuals. This tradition, even though it may appear a simple marketing strategy is more than that, it has been 30 years in the making; it is a ritual that remains unchanged for the most part after nearly three decades. This Christmas tradition is a way of sharing and giving back to a community as a token of appreciation; food and drinks are essential ways of engaging with a community, especially during a holiday that emphasizes the importance of generosity. It is folkloric because of its conception and ritualization; it was inspired by different influences and was coined to fit the needs and intentions of a specific person. This tradition is tied with many other elements to create a truly magical time that triggers nearly all the senses to ensure an emotive and compelling festivity such as Christmas.

Gingerbread Christmas Tradition


“Every Christmas on my mum’s side of the family we made these little gingerbread houses and it, until the last couple years it was at my grandparent’s house, my mum’s parents’ house, and it would be me and my mum and my dad and my brother and then my mums two siblings and their families and my grandparents obviously. And my grandma would bake all the houses and then you know we each bring some candies or something to decorate them with. And she would always have a crockpot full of cinnamon and apples and orange peels and stuff, not to eat just to kind of smell nice and it was also kind of a potluck thing so pretty much like everyone who was coming would bring some food, it might just be like picking up some you know like chips and salsa from a restaurant or someone might bake something, but my grandma usually made a casserole and like a dessert or something and my grandpa would, like my grandma would bake the houses and my grandpa would put them together with the icing. And also, my mum and my uncle and my grandpa are all engineers so usually their houses are very intricate and very put together. And you know it had been going on since, I think it started in the 90s, in my family, it might’ve been a little later than that actually I think it was mostly for the kids so when my brother and I were young and my cousins who are a little younger than my brother, my brother is the oldest, and even though it was oriented around the kids all the adults *laugh* would really go hard and put a lot of effort into the houses and again a bunch of engineers it was hyper-detailed like intricate ornate houses um.

This was mostly just my mum’s side of the family. It was organized by my grandparents, my dad was there but not really his side of the family. It wasn’t just to build the houses either, especially when the kids got older and busier and so did the adults and parents, it kind of became an excuse to socialize and see everyone around the holidays, and we would also, after that around the 24th and 23rd we would also see that family but yeah it was mostly an excuse to get together and the food and the houses and the smelly stuff was just kind of an accessory, an excuse to get together and stuff. But yeah, it has pretty much only been the people who I’ve mentioned. My grandma didn’t have the best family life growing up so I think it was really important to her to try and cultivate that as best as she could. She is like very giving and wants good things for people so I think this was kind of her yearly way to make the little house for everyone. So everyone made a house except for her because she was replacing the icing bags and things like that, so for her, I think this was honestly a stressful time, but it was worth it because the family was all laughing and stuff.”

Context: The informant has always participated in this tradition and continues to participate yearly. The informant’s family has lived in Southern California for several generations. The informant believes that the purpose of the gingerbread tradition is to bring family closer together and to create happy memories.


I agree with the informant’s analysis explaining the purpose of the gingerbread tradition as cultivating a loving family environment and encouraging family bonding. The informant’s grandmother appears to have designed the gingerbread activity to be as enjoyable for everyone participating and likely wanted to primarily strengthen family relationships and create pleasant memories. The gingerbread serves as an opportunity for the family to all partake in a festive activity together while eating, creating a very hospitable environment for families to enjoy each other’s company.

Tamales Christmas Tradition


“This one is definitely a traditionally Hispanic cultural thing, which I’m not, I’m white, but on my other side of my family so my dad’s side, my grandma remarried and her husband had kids coming into that marriage so my uncle Bobby, my dad’s stepbrother married my aunt Hilda and they actually got divorced so they’re not together anymore which I’ll talk about more in a second, but when they were together um every Christmas we would make tamales and you know that’s a particularly common thing to do in a group and tamales especially are a very Christmas time kind of thing. Um but you kind of build them in an assembly line kind of thing, so the whole family was in the kitchen and my family was like completely white, and the people who—my grandpa who married by grandma was white, it was just my aunt Hilda, but she was kind of sharing that culture with us. We would all be like one step at a time, you know fill the tamale, wrap it in the corn husk, you know the whole process, and when that was happening, I was too young the be in the kitchen actually helping, but I would still see my mum and my dad and my aunts and uncles all kind of in the kitchen making food together, talking and smiling. Um and yeah again, even though it wasn’t like my culture I still grew up around it and it meant a lot to my childhood and was a central part of the holiday experience. They did divorce, I don’t know how long ago, I was probably 8 when they split up, but I’m still um my aunt Hilda um I still call her aunt Hilda even though she isn’t technically my aunt anymore, but she had two children with my uncle and I guess my uncle isn’t my blood uncle anyway my dad grew up with him, but anyway but we’re still on good terms with her and I’m pretty close with my cousins still um my cousin Tory and Ariana, two sisters. Even though I don’t see them as much anymore at least my aunt and uncle, I see my cousins semi-regularly still, but um every Christmas she still drops off tamales or like a soup, and even though we’re not making it like we used to in the kitchen in an assembly line kind of thing there’s still a part of that tradition that carries over even though the family has kind of fractured. Um so yeah I don’t know it’s still kind of nice to have a piece of that tradition still intact. Also, Ariana the younger of my cousins is a vegan so I get vegan tamales at Christmas which is nice. I really, I don’t know it was a very important part of my Christmas. I’m sad it’s not the same as it was but you know my aunt still drops them off and it’s sweet to stay in touch.

 I think seeing everyone in the same room all together working on something together and then we get to make it all together and eat it all together it’s just a really good community thing. I think it brought everyone physically close. Making food I think is pretty important to that kind of thing, making it and eating it. Like building relationships—and there’s some relationships pre-built in and I don’t know I think those are the time where you get to really feel close and it’s not just biological and with this group, I wasn’t biologically related to most of them, but they were my family. I feel like it really helped me get close and made my cousins and aunt more than just family I appreciated it, the community that it created, and I’m glad that my aunt shared that part of her culture and upbringing with us.”

Context: The informant has experienced this tradition since they were born until their aunt and uncle divorced. The primary reasoning as to the purpose of the tradition is to bring family closer together through the sharing of activities. and another’s culture. Ultimately, the informant believes that their aunt just wanted to bring the family closer to her by sharing a part of her upbringing with the rest of the family.

Analysis: The informant’s tradition primarily serves as a way for a family to bond and strengthen their relationships. Furthermore, the fact that tamales are being prepared is significant because the informant’s aunt is sharing her culture and a part of her upbringing with her new family. Sharing part of one’s own culture can help foster intimacy and allow people to get to know each other on a deeper level. The use of tamales as a method of sharing culture is particularly useful because it is a communal cooking process and further encourages family bonding. The fact that the informant’s aunt continues to bring food to the family despite being somewhat distanced since her divorce only further shows how the use of food is used to create connections and send the message of love.  



My informant, from Kansas City Missouri, describes a Christmas tradition in his family: “So later on the day of Christmas Eve, my family helps organize a neighborhood tradition called Luminaria. I think the tradition is very Christian and comes from like Italy or Spain but we do it as a non-denominational neighborhood thing. Basically you light a bunch of candles and place them along the street on Christmas eve.”


“There’s probably a religious reason behind it that we’re unfamiliar with, but afterwards people walk around and look at the candles and it’s like a nice moment to talk to people and stuff. I think the Luminaria thing is just a source of coming together as a neighborhood for the holidays. Everyone helps and it’s a big neighborhood thing and people walk and talk and stuff. It has a sort of religious connotation but it’s kinda lost it for us and our area. I think it might be organized with other neighborhoods through a local church but our area is kinda disconnected from that.”


The informant is aware of the religious origins of the traditions, but does not perform the tradition for religious reasons. What matters about the tradition is not what it is meant to represent religiously, but what it represents to the community now: It’s a way of bringing people together and connecting the neighborhood through conversation and common activity.

A Christmas Pickle


Talking about Christmas traditions

L: Also, whoever– The way we decided who opens their presents first is that there’s one uhhhh ornament on the tree that is a pickle, and whoever finds it first gets to open the first present.

ME: I heard about this from my friend A!!

L: really?

ME: A was talking about a Christmas pickle

L: do you know where it’s from?

ME: no I have no idea

L: I don’t know where it’s from 

ME: her [A’s] guess was like: someone in America was like let’s make a Christmas pickle and try to sell it. That was her guess. 

L: yeah, no yeah, we have a Christmas pickle. It’s sparkly

ME: You have a Christmas pickle that’s uh an ornament 

L: I’ll show it to you

ME: tell me what– tell me about the Christmas pickle

L: ok so the Christmas pickle, that’s from my dad’s side of the family. Ummm. I don’t even know where it came from, I should really ask them. But like I just remember ever since I was a little kid ‘find the pickle.’ it would always be my grandparents who would hide it on the tree and then like we would all search for it. I usually was the one to find it first. I’m not kidding, like almost every year. I don’t know why, I’m usually not that observant, but umm yeah the Christmas pickle. Loved it. Umm yeah, don’t know where it came from. And we would always go from there, youngest to eldest for opening presents. One at a time, always. Like that stuck.


This tradition was shared with me by a friend after going grocery shopping together when we sat in my bedroom to do schoolwork together.

L is a Jewish-American USC student studying sociology who grew up in Colorado.


Christmas games and present-giving styles vary greatly from house to house. The Christmas pickle seems one such game/style. Before this year I was unfamiliar with the tradition.

L says she has no idea where the practice came from, but that she loves it. I offer that the tradition may have been started by a company with the intention of profiting off of selling Christmas pickles. This style of tradition creation is not unprecedented, especially in America.