Photo by the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays that bring family together.
Every family celebrates the holidays differently, and each holiday has a different meaning for everyone. There are a variety of traditions throughout different cultures in the world, with many people carrying on traditions that have been passed down for a lifetime.
Krysta Lucero represents her culture as a Native American by celebrating Christmas for three days.
Lucero said her culture celebrates Christmas with traditional Native American dances, which start on Dec. 25 and last until Dec. 28. Starting in the morning,
Lucero and her family meet at the courthouse of their church, St. Augustine Church, which they refer to as their plaza. There are dance performances that go on all morning, then Lucero and her family break for lunch, which usually consists of a large meal.
Each day Lucero and her family make a menu for the meals they’ll eat during their celebration. The meals always include Indian bread and chile. However, the food they eat depends on the day and what they decide to make.
After eating, they return to the plaza and watch the afternoon dances, then head back home and eat another meal for dinner. They continue this pattern for the four days.
Lucero said that each day consists of new dancers who perform, and on the final day of the celebration, the younger children perform afternoon dances.
These traditions have been passed down through many of Lucero’s family members.
“We’re very close to our Native American culture; we’ve practiced these traditions ever since my grandparents were small,” Lucero said.
Lucero said this tradition brings her family and the community they live in closer together.
“We’ve practiced this tradition for many generations; we celebrate our culture,” she said.
Lucero plans to carry these traditions on with her future family, because she wants her children to grow up surrounded by the same cultural traditions.
“It’s a blessing to have such close ties with my cultural community. I want my future family to see the blessings that come with it,” Lucero said.
Maria Crisostomo’s family begins their Christmas celebration in September.
Crisostomo’s family is from the Philippines where Christmas celebrations begin early. The celebration begins in September and lasts until January. This is called the “bermonths.”
They begin the celebration by decorating for Christmas, which includes Christmas trees, nativity scene decoration, and a special decoration called a “parol,” which is a pole or frame with a lighted star lantern on it.
Crisostomo and her family attend church for 21 days, and on Christmas Eve, they go to church at midnight, which is called the “simbanggabi.” After the mass, the “nocheBuena” begins, which is a meal that usually consists of ham, rice, queso de bola (“ball of cheese”), and lumpia spring rolls. They also sing Christmas carols.
“I grew up in Houston, and my parents wanted to keep the (Filipino) tradition going,” Crisostomo said.
The celebration of Christmas is a cultural celebration that the Philippines consider one of the most important holidays.
Christmas for Crisostomo means having her family together and celebrating with them.
“Our Christmas tradition is special and different; I want to carry that tradition into my own family,” said Crisostomo.
Lidia Baldonado’s family celebrates Christmas with lighting luminariasand spending time gathered together on Christmas Eve.
Baldonado and her family travel to their ranch, located on the other side of Cuba, N.M., and gather wood to use later that afternoon for luminarias.
“We believe the luminariashelp light the way for Mary and Joseph to the barn for Jesus to be born,” Baldonado said.
After gathering the wood, they then travel back to their home in Algodones.
“We light the luminariasjust before the sun goes down; we then gather together as a family and recite a rosary,” Baldonado said.
The rest of the afternoon consists of playing guitars, feasting on food, and staying up until the fire dies out. When morning comes the family wakes up early and goes to church on Christmas Day.
After returning from church they gather around the Christmas tree, listen to stories and open gifts while Lidia’s mother and grandmother begin to prepare a traditional meal of red chile, ham, mash potatoes and other fixings. The rest of their day is spent riding horses and spending time together as a family.
Baldonado said the traditions have been passed down for years from her great-great-great-great grandparents, who wanted the tradition to carry on for many generations.
“We keep these traditions every year, because the world is so materialistic now, it’s important to focus on what really matters, which is paying respect and homage to those who came before us and continuing to grow in our faith,” Baldonado said.
She said she plans on passing these traditions down to her future family, because it’s important to her that the tradition stays alive.
“Our family didn’t have much growing up,so it was and will always be important for us to focus on more humble things in life and being together as a family,” Baldonado said.