Junior anticipates holiday traditions with family

Saschel Moore, Reporter

In most television productions Christmas in the United States is generically portrayed as a season for gift-giving and caroling into the wee hours of the night. However, something that sets the real America apart from its film depictions is the diversity. In Hispanic culture, Christmas is celebrated with a zest and spirit that pays homage to the Latin way of life. Christmas is not just a season, it’s a tradition.

Junior Yaneth Secundino celebrates a traditional Christian Christmas every year with her friends and family. Her father and her mother are from Mexico; along with this heritage comes certain values and traditions that may be different from others. Nevertheless, despite their different place of origin, Secundino’s family still values things like religion and spending quality time with one another like most modern families.

“Christmas is a crazy time,” Secundino said. “It’s the time of year where everyone gets together and we bond.”

In Christianity, Christmas is celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Religion works as a beacon that brings Secundino’s family together for Christmas every year.

“It’s a very important day for us,” Secundino said. “It represents Jesus, and he means love and family. We go to church to see the play about the birth of Jesus to remind us of what Christmas day is all about.”

Another important factor of Secundino’s version of a traditional Hispanic Christmas are their parties.

“My mom and I cook a lot of tamales,” Secundino said. “I help fill up little bags with spicy, Mexican candies, and hand those out to the kids. We also buy two piñatas: one for the adults and one for the kids. My family and I dance and play loud music. We decorate with LED lights, and we have fun with glow sticks.”

On Christmas Eve, Secundino’s family celebrates by partying into the cold hours of the night until the clock hits midnight. When Christmas Eve turns to Christmas Day, the family gathers around their Christmas tree, complete with an angel statue on top, to open gifts.

“We have two gifts: the real one and the prank one,” Secundino said. “One Christmas my family brought a big box and blindfolded me and told me to put my hand inside the box. When I put my hand in, I felt something really fuzzy and hairy. I started screaming until they took my blindfold off. They had put a little stuffed bear in the box.”

In Secundino’s opinion, Christmas is meant to be the season of giving, but not just the giving of gifts in particular. Secundino’s parents have always tried to teach her this message: the lesson that the sentimentality of a gift holds more value than the gift’s dollar value.

“Most people would say that the best gift they have ever gotten is an iPad or something like that,” Secundino said. “But the best gift my parents ever gave me was a book, ‘A Child Called It.’ The book was about a boy that got abused, and it made me realize that it’s hard for some kids to have a real Christmas.”

This experience of receiving a gift that does not appear to have much value from the outside looking in, has taught Secundino to value her friends and family all the more, allowing her to put thought into the gifts she gives to those she loves.

“The best gift I ever bought was for my mother,” Secundino said. “I got her an angel statue because she loves angels. To my mother, angels represent security. They make her feel safe, so it meant a lot to me to see her so happy when she got it.”

The Secundino household has experienced Christmas in Mexico, as well as in the United States. Five years ago, Secundino’s family visited her mother’s side of the family in Acapulco, which is one of the biggest resort cities in Mexico, to celebrate Christmas.

“Acapulco is located close to the equator, so Christmas clothes there are usually sandals and shorts because of the heat,” Secundino said. “My family and I visited the beach when we were there. I miss it because the environment is so energetic.”

Yaneth online
Secundino (front center) cradles the family photo at El Centro in Mexico, where the enjoyed shopping and watching plays one Christmas when Secundino was younger. Photo by CLARISSA MORENO

Secundino’s family adheres to the traditional values that are correlated to Christmas – faith, charity and love – regardless of the environment they are in. “I know some people who just have their parents and the kids over for Christmas,” Secundino said. “We invite everybody – neighbors, friends and family. We want a full house.”