In the last several issues many traditions - some ten, some fifteen and some twenty years old - have been discussed. The ten-year-old Holiday Village in Brownsville; the fantastic, inflated balloons in the McAllen parade is a three- or four-year-old tradition; the Christmas tree forests in local museums are now traditions.
First of all, what does that word "tradition'· mean? The word comes from Latin meaning the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs or information from one generation to the next. A tradition can be " invented" politically, culturally or strictly for financial reasons - that is to bring more money into your city. Or a tradition can just happen!
Certainly, in my family we have some Christmas traditions. And I bet you have traditions in your family also. In my family, our Christmas traditions start on Christmas Eve with tamales and homemade chili. That meal is probably not a very old tradition in most South Texas border families, but for my family, the tradition probably started forty or fifty years ago.
Regardless of what time the guests leave, and dishes are washed and put away, the next and more important tradition, must be observed. We just must watch The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens before we turn in for the night.
Christmas day has another set of traditions - one that absolutely exasperates newcomers to the family. All Christmas gifts must be opened one by one and passed all around the room to be admired by all before the next gift can be opened. This process can take all morning - with of course, time out for orange juice, coffee, pan dulce and sausage balls.
Afterwards, the cooks take over with the preparation of at least two traditional presentations - homemade sage dressing and ambrosia (fruit salad). There is no recipe for either of these dishes. The cook goes by looks and taste as the ingredients for the dressing are mixed together - after all, that's how mother did it!
Now my father's contribution to the Christmas dinner was a delicious and HUGE bowl of ambrosia. His words were “you women should let a man make a contribution to the feast.” Little did he know when he started that his contribution would never look quite right to him, so he just kept adding one fruit after another until he had a wash tub full of ambrosia - a perfect complement to all the other Christmas delicacies.
I smile to myself every time I prepare a bowl of ambrosia as I, too, just keep adding another fruit until it looks and tastes just right. Traditions are wonderful - they build memories that last forever and can bring joy and nostalgia to us all.
All of these traditions may be forgotten or replaced in the future. But there is one tradition that hopefully will never be forgotten and will last forever. It is a tradition that is not glitzy nor glittery - perhaps that is why it is not observed as much as in years past.
Las Posadas, possibly the greatest and oldest tradition of all, was brought from Spain to Mexico some 500 years ago. In Spanish, the word "posada" means inn. This tradition re-enacts Mary and Joseph searching for a place for the Christ Child to be born.
In times past, the procession would be led by children dressed as angels followed by Mary riding on a donkey that was led by Joseph. Neither rain, nor cold, nor wind would interfere as the group moved from house to house singing a special song that asked for lodging. Over and over they would be denied until finally a predesignated home would open wide their doors and welcome the group in. This celebration would begin on December 16 and would be repeated for nine consecutive nights until Christmas Eve.
This tradition brings to all of us the true meaning of Christmas. Unfortunately, there are not as many celebrations of Las Posadas as there used to be. Organizing, preparing and taking part in a Posada takes time.
Sometimes we don't make time for the most important tradition of all...the celebration of the true meaning of Christmas. If you are ever invited to a posada, be sure to go. The experience will build a special memory.
I wonder - will this tradition disappear? Will we get too busy to observe this tradition? As we celebrate this special season, will we remember the true meaning of Christmas?