Latinx Christmas traditions are diverse, full of rituals, recipes, and stories. However, although most Latin American practices around these dates come from the Catholic tradition, the syncretism of our culture transforms them into stories worthy of being told and perpetuated over time.
We must remember that everything that remains unchanged over the centuries ends up withering and losing the magic and meaning so important for the new generations.
Stories can be told a thousand times and reinterpreted in various ways. One of them can be by transforming a narrative through a new language, as is the case of the first book of this selection.
One can also think of new characters going through circumstances we already know or incorporate new plot twists into familiar plots.
There are many Christmas stories written and immortalized by Latinx authors, although most of them belong to children’s literature. That is why, at the end of this selection, I have included a book for adults where Latino writers tell their favorite Christmas stories and anecdotes.
“A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas,” by Pat Mora
“A Piñata in a Pine Tree” is Pat Mora’s reinterpretation of the traditional English song “Twelve Days of Christmas,” where it is not “my true love” but “my amiga” who does the giving. Well, friendship is a form of true love, after all.
Born in El Paso, Texas, to a bilingual family, Mora’s ear is trained to build rhymes intertwining English and Spanish to please both language speakers. In this book, burritos dance, lunitas sing, and birds give serenades to create a twelve-day narration suited to Latino culture.
You can buy it here.
“Pablo’s Christmas,” by Hugo C. Martin
Hugo C. Martin’s “Pablo’s Christmas,” tells a story familiar to thousands of children whose parents have migrated in search of a better future for their families.
Pablo is a young boy who lives with his two sisters, mother, and father on a Mexican farm. But when Pablo’s father learns that he is to become a father once more, he leaves for the United States to work and make extra money. Under these circumstances, Pablo becomes the man of the house, and, as Christmas comes closer, he worries about whether his father will be back on time for the holidays — as he promised — or if he won’t.
“Pablo’s Christmas” is available here.
“Mimi’s Parranda/La Parranda De Mimi,” by Lydia Gil
“Mimi’s Parranda” is based on the Puerto Rican tradition of… well, parrandas or asaltos, as they are also called. In parrandas, a group of friends or relatives take off to the street to play instruments, sing, and dance as they knock on the neighbors’ doors, asking to be allowed in and for food and drinks. The owner of the house lets them in and then joins the parade to go to other homes.
This is the tradition that Mimi longs for every year when she returns to Puerto Rico with her family for the holidays. However, when she learns they won’t make the trip this year, she becomes morose and decides to stay in bed the day of her class’ holiday party.
“Mimi’s Parranda” is available here.
“Too Many Tamales,” by Gary Soto
This story is based on the Mexican tradition of tamales. Still, it can be extrapolated to almost any Latin American country as each one has its version of tamales or hallacas.
“Too Many Tamales” is the story of a treasure thought to be lost in a batch of tamales. María is having a perfect Christmas Eve making tamales with her cousins. Everything goes according to plan until María’s mom leaves the kitchen and decides to try mom’s beautiful diamond ring.
You can buy this story of a Christmas day here.
“Las Christmas: Favorite Latino Authors Share Their Holiday Memories,” edited by Esmeralda Santiago and Joie Davidow
“Las Christmas” is a book filled with anecdotes of twenty-five Latinx authors around the holidays. As a non-fiction book based in the Latin American context, it touches on diverse issues such as political oppression, Hanukkah, all sorts of scrumptious recipes, mental-health issues, etc.
This book is a window to a broader perspective of what “Las Christmas” means throughout the continent and the different ways they are lived.
“Las Christmas” is available here.