I love Nochebuena because who wants to open gifts on Christmas morning!?
I love the holidays so much that I enjoying getting involved in all the cheesy Christmas traditions. For example, I'll play the movies Elf and A Christmas Story to get me in the Christmas spirit—sometimes even throughout the year. Growing up I lived with a pretty big family at home so it was guaranteed that the holidays could get a bit hectic.
The one thing I loved most that separated me from my American friends was the fact that while everyone else opened their Christmas gifts on the morning of, I opened mine on Nochebuena (Christmas Eve). Traditionally it's been in our culture to open our Christmas gifts at midnight and I wouldn't have it any other way!
I recall my parents tucking me and my sister into bed and come midnight, they woke us up to gather around the Christmas tree and open presents. In addition to which followed my father's Peruvian custom of having hot chocolate straight from the bar with pannetone (A bread with dried fruit). I would always make sure to leave out some cookies for Santa, but during those few hours of sleep I'd remain restless--way too excited to see what I'd gotten that year.
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I'd say my favorite gift was when I received my first bike. Naturally it was pink and girly, but it was the first "big girl" gift I'd received and I remember I rode the heck out of it. I also remember receiving a Playstation, but my attention span and video games don't mix well. It was exciting as a kid to have that high anticipation of receiving presents and being able to open them before all your friends. As I got older, Christmas became more for me as a time to spend with my family and not so much about the gifts.
I had my first "American" style Christmas a couple of years back and I have to say, it doesn't compare to the Latino Nochebuena tradition. There's just something nice about being able to gather at midnight with family and to wake up with your new toys which are just yearning to be played with.
I'd like to pass on my Latino traditions to my kids--I mean what kid wouldn't appreciate opening their presents 8 hours earlier than normal? I'll definitely be that mom who goes overboard when decorating for the holidays, but as long as the kids help!
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