Celebrate New Year’s Eve the Latino Way

Christmas is my favorite time of the year. Every year I devote tremendous time and currency (both monetary and emotional) to the planning and preparation of the ultimate holiday gala. With so much festivity comes a great many stressful decisions. Like many, I overspend on gifts; I overstress about food, and I overanalyze whether my favorite outfit is the right outfit. And that’s just for starters.

The added stress comes from trying to match the tone of festivities with all of the complex personalities of various family members and sundry party crashers. Sometimes I feel like Chevy Chase laboring in vain to create the perfect Christmas.

But then I remember why I love this season so much; it takes me back to a time during my childhood where my conception of Christmas was divorced from all of the hassle and stress of adulthood. It reminds me of a time when I was better able to comprehend the truest meaning of the holiday. Amid all of the bitter memories of my turbulent childhood, the holidays stand out in luminous relief.

Christmas celebrations in Honduras are, to say the least, different from the holiday traditions observed in the United States. The key difference being that the emphasis is on change and personal improvement and less on gift exchange. This is because the best gift a child in Honduras can often hope for is a new set of church or school clothes. And as much I remember wanting a brand new bike or that Malibu Barbie with the deluxe mini-sports car, I understood the value of what my parents could muster given our limited means.

In Latin culture, food is the key ingredient to any major holiday celebration. And where I’m from, Christmastide is synonymous with tamales. It’s a tradition that has been passed down through the generations from time immemorial. My great grandmother made them, and my grandma made them, all the way down to my mom and myself. These holiday delicacies take a great deal of time, sweat and tears to prepare, but believe me, it’s worth every painstaking moment of preparation when you take that first savory bite.

Also, if you ever find yourself in a desperate search for a last-minute party-favor in Latin America, look no further than your local fireworks market. Because where I’m from, there is no Christmas without fireworks.

And if you thought that Christmas was the apogee of the holiday season, then think again! Every year on New Year’s Eve, an effigy is prepared to symbolize the old year. We would use old clothes for the body and stuff the rest with crumpled newspaper. Handwritten notes would then be added to the dummy explaining why it needs to be burned and which areas of our lives need improvement. And beware that the doll is filled with fireworks, too!

But if it’s a spicier transformation you desire to light up the New Year, then make sure you wear the right color panties on December 31st! Because according to our tradition, wearing red breeches will attract the love to your life. Don’t forget that you must give those scarlet undies away or else the trick will backfire and you’ll have to contend with the unintended consequences of that seemingly small oversight!

Do you worry about your finances? Then put money in your shoes on New Year’s Eve to promote wealth and prosperity!

Need a vacation? Then have your bags ready, because at midnight you must run around the block with your luggage in tow!

Believe me, because I did it and within a year I moved to the United States!

Most of all, remember that even though life is tough, a brand new year holds the promise of a new beginning for all of those who are ready and willing to effect positive change in our lives.

Photo Credit: Maurits Verbiest Flickr via Compfight cc

Stephanie Ortez

Stephanie is a highly caffeinated mother of two wonderful boys. She is hopelessly addicted to non-fiction books and literature that moves her to tears. She is an admissions advisor for George Washington University online where she assists homeschooled students internationally. Stephanie lives with Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. She is a passionate mental health advocate, member of Stigma Fighters. Her writing has been featured on The Elephant Journal, The Mighty, The Organic Coffee Haphazardly and Feminine Collective.

  1. Jacqueline Cioffa

    I am not a fan of the holidays…AT ALL and yet, reading this made me feel all warm and fuzzy.
    The joy of longtime tradition and a holiday spent (however frazzled) with meaning comes sparkling through like fireworks.
    Thank you for making me want to run around the block with a backpack, and pull out the red panties. lol

    Really wonderful piece – wishing you a very, spicy holiday season.

    xx Jackie

  2. Avatar

    This is great, Stephanie!! I love it. My family is planning to spend NYE in NH, so maybe we should burn an effigy. It’s pretty desolate up there, and I could stand to improve some things about myself…

  3. doriowen

    I’m in love with a girl who can use the word apogee in a sentence 🙂
    This is one of your best, Steph, a fabulous reminder of materialistic vs. the true meaning. I hope you never lose your Honduran roots and continue to share them! xoxoD.

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