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.