I think for some people Christmas Eve is the day where you just conk out. Your motor runs out of gas and at this point, whatever happens is just going to have to happen. Right now, I’m sitting on my couch and I’m kind of hoping that my Husband deems it too late to go back out for some additional gifts because I really want to change into my pajamas and have a drink right now while I halfway watch the game and finish my Christmas Eve Blog Post. I know that you’re one of the tired folks too. Perhaps you’re worn out from cleaning the house over and over because with people coming in and out, it never seems to stay clean. Maybe you’ve spent too much time in the kitchen, cooking and baking and if you never see another sugar cookie or casserole dish it will be too soon. For some, it might be their wallet that has gotten a work out and they are experiencing a slight dread because although they only bought what they said they would buy, they still managed to go a little bit overboard. I never started going overboard at Christmas until I met my husband. We had always had simple, regular Christmases. He brought with him the fun crazy bustle of Christmas Gone Nuts. It was exciting and wary for me. As the presents and decorations, Christmas Lights and cookies piled on growing higher and higher, I learned that with him, there was no holding back in expressing your love for the season. He’s like that in all celebrations and occasions. It’s one of the many reasons that I love him when I’m not wanting to kill him. The more the merrier in our home as the saying goes. Of course, it’s different now because there are less children at home, but the sentiment of giving has not diminished with him. And isn’t that what the Season is about? Giving of yourself to others? Love is what gets you back up to tidy the mantle when new Christmas Cards arrive. Love is what sends you scurrying into the kitchen to reheat Christmas ham leftovers to make a buffet table with crackers, relish plates and trays of cookies because you’re hoping your niece with her newborn son comes to visit. It’s the look of amazement that warms your heart when your son unwraps a gift with the present that he thought he would never get. Love keeps you moving when your body says you just can’t anymore. For me Christmas Eve is a wonderful time to have tamales. In a way that I still think is funny, but others wouldn’t, I’m reminded of a joke stereotyping my people. Why do Mexicans eat tamales on Christmas? So that they have something to unwrap. Ha. Ha. I always think of that joke as I peel back the corn husks to drop this gift onto my plate. Everyone’s family makes their tamales different. I remember trying sweet tamales when I was little, made with raisins and other sweet things that are just WRONG. I discreetly left that one behind on my plate. Some families make them super-hot and I once heard of a family that made theirs with shrimp. That’s a big nope to me too. Tamales to me are made with pork, chicken or beef. Stop with being creative, this isn’t Chopped or some other Food Network show. Also, the way your tamales are wrapped is an indicator of where your family is from. Mine are rectangular and we don’t use smaller pieces of corn husk to make little belts to secure the tamales. They are folded over in a humble manner and are as wide as three fingers. Our tamales are distinctly from the North of Mexico or a New Mexico style. I’ve been identified as such when we were on a cruise in Ensenada and went on a tamale making excursion (yes they exist) and the instructor recognized my wide and thick tamales folded over. “You’re from New Mexico” he stated and I was amazed and answered that my family grew up there. He said he could tell by the way my tamales were folded over. When I see little mummy tamales, cylinder and tied, they seem stingy to me, like they didn’t want to add too much meat to the tamale. I judge them to be stingy too. Yes, I judge you on your tamale making, I think it tells me EXACTLY who you are as a person. Stop being stingy, slather on the masa and spread that carne so that I know you love me when you make your tamales!
I don’t remember my grandma’s making tamales, I’m sure that they did. I just know that my mom would spend all of Christmas Eve way past midnight working on the masa, watching the pots heat and at some point, she would crawl into bed only to wake up four hours later. No wonder she was always passing out on the sofa mid-morning! We would all sit around the kitchen counter on Christmas Eve and feel the rush of cool air whenever someone opened the sliding glass door to go outside because the heat in the kitchen was CALIENTE! Next to the sink on the counter would be a glass with bits of masa in it, most of them sunk to the bottom indicating that it hadn’t leavened enough and more lard or baking powder was needed along with an arm breaking session of hand whipping the masa to test again, only to have it sink to the bottom. In my home, I don’t make the tamales. My wonderful Anglo husband, who loves my culture, oversees all aspects of tamale making. He’s been working on it every Christmas since we met. I’ve always appreciated that someone in our immediate family is ready to take on that task. This year our tamales will be made on New Year’s Eve while we have a bonfire, but that’s for another post.
Last night as I was wrapping presents, I had this feeling that there just wasn’t enough, and it was madness because OF COURSE it was enough! When does that switch come on to help you say STOP? I think we as humans are all missing it, especially us Americans. We love to consume- food, drink, material things, reality tv…it’s a binge fest. No wonder the rest of the world looks at us like we are Jabba’s. With this consumption, we are never satiated because we don’t know what we are feeding, which leads me back to my original idea when I first started my post, how Christmas Day led me on a mission to stop working and come home. About five years ago, we had just moved to the DFW area and we were spending our first Christmas here. We had been lucky to have secured well-paying jobs and that Christmas was another CHRISTMAS GONE NUTS. We had gotten a bonus and we used it all on gifts for our four teens. In the end, we had spent close to five thousand in gifts for them. The life changing moment happened on Christmas morning. I was working a four-ten’s shift, that is to say, four days of ten hour shifts that ended at 11:30pm. My days off were split and I worked one day of the weekend. It was an excellent company with the best benefits that I’ve ever had but I was unsatisfied and wanted something else. What helped me to convince my husband was Christmas morning. At about 10:30 am, surrounded by wrapping paper and boxes, we were gift hungover and draped on the sofas like zombies watching a bowl game. After having spent all that money on our kids, presents opened and set aside, the day was like any other day. That convinced me that we could stand to cut back and financially we could be ok. My time with my kids had more value than being able to make so much money to buy them gifts like that. I could change jobs that offered a traditional work schedule if it meant that I would have more time with my family, who cares if we had less presents the next year. And it worked, and luckily, I eventually bounced back with a job that gave me traditional hours and the salary I had before. And again, those moves to spend more time at home eventually became the move to completely come home and I am glad that we could do so.
This holiday season, as you fret about the number of presents or how fancy your dinner can be, take a moment, breath in and out (please don’t stop that part) and just chill like Frosty. Let it be and enjoy the people you love. As we have all heard, and maybe we might be afraid to experience, the best Christmases have been the ones where you didn’t know how you were going to make it or you didn’t have enough. If you have love- you find that is all you need. And a tamale.