Tamales and Mashed Potatoes

Tamales and Mashed Potatoes

Personal Background:

My mom works in admissions for a university. She grew up in Palos Verdes, California where her father was a dentist known throughout her entire community. She now lives in Huntington Beach with her family.


Growing up, it seemed completely normal for me to have mashed potatoes and tamales every Christmas, until I realized other people did not do this. So I decided to ask my mom why we did this odd mix of food. What happened is that the mashed potatoes represent her family who is Caucasian, while the tamales represent my dad’s family who is Mexican.

My mom got her recipe for the mashed potatoes from her mother, and it is known in the family as one of the best dishes on Christmas. She makes it for both her side of the family, as well as for my dad’s side of the family. The tamales are also with both sides of the family, but those are from a local restaurant, not hand made. Nothing we make has much religious meaning to it, but has a connection to the past.

To my mom, this disjointed menu is a way to bring the families together. It is a change in tradition for both of my parents, but my mom loves that they were able to make new traditions by still keeping some of their old ones. It has made for a different Christmas for both sides of the family, but part of becoming a new family is creating new traditions.


What makes this a tradition is because it is something that is actually happening and being completed. Every year, this family is physically making and eating this food.

To me, it has become a ritual with when the potatoes are made, and how they are made. Before my mom even starts making the potatoes, my sister and I sit and peel around 20, or more, potatoes. We have been doing it this way since my sister and I have been old enough to be trusted with the potato peelers. It is how the Mexican side of my family is able to have a really nice Christmas with the Caucasian side.