Traditions add more reason to season

By Helena Rodriguez: Local columnist

I get carried away with Christmas spirit. My daughter Laura rolls her eyes, calls me a Christmas freak and blushes in embarrassment when I pull up to her work with waving Santas on my car.

Yes, I like Christmas. No, I love Christmas. It is truly the most wonderful time of the year, I mean, once I get my tree and decorations up, get all of my final exams out of the way and get my Christmas cards in the mail.

I get a little loco with Christmas spirits, I mean yuletide drunkenness.

Amidst all of this decked out craziness, though, comes an internal peace, joy and time of anticipation that I have become aware of only in the past few years.

And amidst all of these run-on sentences is another important point. Over the years, Laura and I have developed our own family Christmas traditions, which I hope continue after Laura goes off to college next year.

Old habits die hard; not so much because they are addicting, but because they become a part of us. I wouldn’t say this about other holidays, though. Christmas is the only holiday I go all out for, and with good reason. Because Christmas is the only season with a real reason.

I won’t get all preachy here. Just watch “The Nativity,” or better yet, experience it in your heart this Christmas.

Many of our family traditions are a direct result of my obsession with Christmas, but they are traditions nonetheless, and traditions that again, I hope are here to stay, but which I realize are also subject to change.

Most people try to think of all the crazy things you can do with a brick-hard fruitcake, sometimes even trying to pass it off as a gift to unsuspecting gift recipients. In our household, we have a rather bizarre Christmas tradition. Well, I do anyway. I actually eat fruitcake. In fact, I have two fruitcakes in my pantry right now.

At the Rodriguez household, we know that our halls will be decked and ready to light up the night after Thanksgiving. Another day-after-Thanksgiving tradition is watching “Christmas Vacation.”

Nothing puts you into the grinchmas, I mean Christmas spirit, like Chevy Chase.

At the Rodriguez household, we already have our gift wrapping paper and Christmas cards, purchased from the day after Christmas sale the year before. At the Rodriguez household, the generic “leave a message” recording on our answering machine will suddenly change to “Feliz Navidad” and the waving Santa Clauses will, much to Laura’s dread, go up on my car.

At the Rodriguez household, the stocking will be hanged by the chimney with care. Well, we don’t have a chimney, but they’re hanged. Also, we break out Laura’s beloved Nutcracker collection, which keeps growing.

These nutcrackers are lined up like gangsters under our Christmas tree, by our TV and on our kitchen table. Nutcrackers have taken over our apartment.

We also have my growing nativity collection, which is starting to take up space, too, I mean, which is adding even more holiday cheer.

During the first week of Advent, I also pull out my “Feliz Navidad” CD, featuring the Tex-Mex sounds of Freddy Fender, Mingo Saldivar and Pio Treviño.

Another Christmas tradition is attending the Mañanitas a La Virgen every Dec. 12, which we did this past week.

Dec. 12 is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe and on the eve of this special celebration we stay up watching the Mañanitas a La Virgen on Univision TV the night before.

This year was really good, with the bands, Montez de Durango, Control, Pepe Aguilar and Lucero. We stayed awake until almost midnight on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday, we attended the Mañanitas at 6 a.m. at St. Helen’s Catholic Church in Portales.

Following the Mañanitas, we laid roses at the feet of Our Blessed Mother and went to the parish hall for some yummy posole and hot chocolate. The Aguirris led the gathering in some beautiful music once again.

The Mañanitas has been one of our favorite holiday traditions since 2001, when we lived in Abilene, Texas, and attended our first pre-dawn Mañanitas.

Other traditions we have are going to look at Christmas lights, and even though Laura’s a teenager now, we still read her favorite Christmas stories, “Too Many Tamales” by Gary Soto and “Farolitos of Christmas” by Rudolfo Anaya.

Another Rodriguez Christmas tradition is shopping for gifts at the last minute. That’s probably the way it should be, though, an afterthought to the real reason for the season.

Helena Rodriguez is a freelance columnist. E-mail her at: