I love the Holidays, especially Christmas. It has always been a day of family, friendship, love and cooking, ever since I was a little girl. I have fond, beautiful memories of Christmas pasts, watching my grandmother cook with such dedication, and the smells… Oohhh so enticing you could taste them in the air. She was the one that taught me to make the famous Salvadorean turkey with the even more famous tomato sauce; like nothing else you have ever tasted!!
Christmas was very noisy too, many of you Latino folk can probably relate to the following: the non-stop crackling, the smoke, the lit skies, the crazy streets full of people and kids lighting firecrackers! I treasure those memories even when now I see them as the most dangerous thing ever, and I wonder how the heck I survived those nights blowing up firecrackers that would rattle windows (sometimes even break them ) and set off car and house alarms miles away from the blast! Crazy, crazy Christmases!!
I always reminisce and this year it got me thinking about what made those holidays so special and dear to me: the truth is it was not so much about the gifts, but about the whole experience and the people; it wasn’t even religious – although I did have an aunt that would drag us to midnight mass, and deep down I thank her for it because it added a spiritual element to the celebrations.
Every year I try to relive those wonderful memories, and I notice the more I practice simple routines, the more satisfying my Christmases are. So here are a couple of things I do or intend to do more off to make my holidays more meaningful:
- I setup an area of my house that has childhood memorabilia or a family heirloom. For me, this is my Nativity. I have been lucky enough to be entrusted with an antique baby Jesus that has been in my husband’s family for three generations. This special baby has a little manger made out of wooden sticks and handmade pillows. Not only is he dear to me because it has history – in fact, the baby was restored not too long ago because it was loosing his “glow”- but because it reminds me of the beautiful Nativities my family and friends would have at their homes during the holidays. Everyone was so proud of their little representations of that Holy Night; I feel just as proud to have my little version of the same! I also have a smaller, but equally beautiful, wooden nativity created by the Salvadorian artist, Fernando Llort. His paintings and designs were and still are, a big part of Salvadorian culture and artistic expression. I treasure them with my heart.
- My daughter and I encourage each other to make handmade decorations for the tree. In all honesty, my decorations are not 100% handmade, but at least 75%… Hahahahaaa. Some are made by us, others by family members like my wonderful mother in law Teresita. By “making handmade decorations” I mean buying simple, basic materials and getting creative with Pinterest ideas. Nothing that cannot be made with scissors and glue! This last year we created a super easy decoration: plastic glittery snowflakes on paper dollies. I used to do the same when I was younger, possibly because the options I had available did not fit with my ideas of a beautiful tree… So I made my own decorations. Now, I see my daughter wanting the same, and actively engaging in the holiday preparations. It’s a wonderful tradition I treasure doing with her. That and making the big dinner together.
- I try to gift responsibly. What do I mean by this? Know the product you are gifting, try to fill a need and more importantly, give from the heart. Like I mentioned, Christmas to me was never about the gifts. That is not to say I didn’t like gifts, I did and still do! But the gifts I received growing up were truly from the heart; people, family, friends, everyone was under a strict budget, none of us lived in excess, and that made their effort so much more valuable. Everything and all had a purpose, a use, a reason. I try to do the same now, gifting with a purpose, and it just makes me feel satisfied that the gift I am presenting will help make someone’s life better. It’s not a price tag competition either. I don’t buy to just buy. If I can’t buy, then I gift an experience: I pick up a friend for a day at the beach, I stop to get coffee for someone or maybe extend an invitation to my holiday dinner. I once gifted an afternoon to dye my friend’s hair; probably the best thing anyone had done for her that year. I know the value of someone’s time and dedication. Sometimes, that is the most valuable gift you can ever give.
- We celebrate Christmas on the 24th with what you’ve probably guessed already; a very special dinner. That day, and from my oldest memories, I always wear my Sunday best. My husband does the same, my daughter too. And when we get together with family, they are also wearing their very best drags. It even has a name in El Salvador, “el estreno”, and people save up all year long to have a nice outfit for Christmas Eve. What I love about getting my pretty on is that there is an excuse to pull out those crazy heels or glam my makeup. It’s the “I’ve been going crazy cooking up a storm, fixing up the house but I will not sit down at the table without first looking fabulous … So you all better wait for me 2 hours before carving up that turkey” attitude. My grandmother, to this day, fixes her hair, pulls out her evening outfit and asks me to help with her lipstick before making an appearance in public. And I love that! For me, taking time to look nice means I will have a wonderful evening, because I’m ready for it, I expect it, I deserve it!
So there, I have decided these are the things that make me truly happy come Christmas time. I sprinkle a little bit of the old with the new memories I make every year, some that have become new traditions (like eating Tofurkey instead of Turkey, hahahahaa – insert husband’s mad face here).
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, this is a magical season for all. Make it a meaningful one, one that you will remember with a big smile and warm heart. Be your best version this Holiday… and try to stay the same until the next one.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
See you later~
The Minimal Sisters