Mixing Traditions for a Bicultural Christmas

(Free Gift Tag! Go ahead and print this image to attach to gifts for familia y amigos!)

(Free Gift Tag! Go ahead and print this image to attach to gifts for familia y amigos!)

Most of you know that I write for several websites each month. I usually share those links on the Latinaish Facebook Page, but I wanted to link this one up here for those who might not be on Facebook since this particular post is so relevant to my usual content on Latinaish. I also took the opportunity to make a bicultural/bilingual gift tag for your Christmas gifts (see above!) Feel free to print it out and use it!

Now for the post:

Mixing Traditions for a Bicultural Christmas

Fifteen years ago I married Carlos, a Salvadoran immigrant who spoke little English. Because we were young, pregnant, and poor at the time—instead of moving to our own place—I moved Carlos into my parents’ house where I was still living. From the outside it didn’t seem like the most ideal situation, but living with my English-speaking Anglo parents turned out to be a unique opportunity for Carlos to get a crash course in English and American culture.

Of course, living in such a situation made our diverse backgrounds that much more apparent—especially during holidays, and especially during Christmas…[READ MORE HERE]

Gringos can’t dance?

“Los americanos no bailan” – it was something my suegra always said, usually with arms crossed over her chest while sitting at my Anglo parents’ house on a holiday. My parents were always kind enough to invite my suegra to dinner even though she never seemed to like anything about being there. She complained about the American food, complained about the overly-friendly Golden Retrievers, complained that my family spoke English and that she couldn’t understand, complained about the lack of music, complained that no one was dancing.

Because we never danced, Suegra then assumed that it was because we couldn’t dance – that we were incapable of dancing. “Los americanos no saben bailar” – she would say.

When it was discovered at a very early age that my younger son was a natural dancer with an amazing sense of rhythm, she took all the credit. “Puro salvadoreño,” she’d say, or “Este talento viene de parte de mi familia.”

Likewise, when we discovered that my older son lacked rhythm, that no matter how hard he tried, (and that the harder he tried, the worse it was), Suegra blamed it on me. “Ay, pobrecito,” she’d say, “no puede bailar, igual a su mamá.”

The truth is that Suegra has never even seen me dance – and despite what she might think, I don’t dance like Elaine on Seinfeld. Neither will I claim to be as good as Napoleon Dynamite, but I think I do alright.

It’s a common stereotype that white people can’t dance. I guess humans like stereotypes because it gives us a false sense of security that we better understand ourselves, our world and the people in it. The problem is that stereotypes attempt to group people together based on a common trait, but humans, even those that share many things in common, are much too diverse to be categorized in that way.

That being said, in my experience, and without doing scientific research, my hypothesis is that if you walk up to your average gringo on the street and compared his dancing skills with your average Latino on the street, the average Latino would more often be the better dancer. But, why?

I don’t think that this is a result of race or skin color but rather a result of culture. Gringos, as my suegra noticed, don’t tend to dance as often as Latinos. Dance, for many Anglos, just isn’t a part of daily life, perhaps due to our Puritanical roots.

Now, if we all know that “practice makes perfect”, wouldn’t it make sense that the group who practices less, (regardless of any man-made category we could put them in), would quite simply be less skilled than the group that practices more?

Again, this is my unscientific guess as to why “gringos can’t dance” – (and to be clear, this doesn’t apply to all gringos. Some are born with natural talent and some learn to dance very well, even on a professional level.)

If you don’t like my theory, Dave Chappelle has another one.

Fiesta Latina vs. Fiesta Gringa

It’s birthday party season again and one of the more popular posts on Latinaish is Latino vs. Anglo Birthday Party. A Spanish version of this post was even published in the June/July 2010 issue of SerPadres Magazine after being discovered on Tiki Tiki Blog. So here it is for those of you who are new here or who might have missed it!

The Differences Between an Anglo Kid’s Birthday Party and a Latino Kid’s Birthday Party

#1. Who gets to come?

Anglo – Those whose names are written on the invitation.

Latino – Those whose names are written on the invitation, plus their uncles, cousins, and sometimes random neighbors who had nothing better to do that day.

#2. What time should we come?

Anglo – The time is right there on the invitation.

Latino – An hour late, or else the hosts won’t be ready when you arrive.

#3. Food Etiquette

Anglo – Eat only what is given to you. Don’t ask for seconds even if you’re really hungry.

Latino – Eat as much as you want and then ask for plates to take home leftovers for eating later or to bring to family members who didn’t feel like coming.

#4. Singing, dancing, music

Anglo – The only music heard is when the kids sing “Happy Birthday” at cake time. Dancing is rare, but when it happens, it is usually the “Hokey Pokey”.

Latino – WHAT?! I CAN’T HEAR YOU! THE MUSIC IS TOO LOUD! … Adults dance Perreo in front of the kids, no importa.

#5. Alcohol?

Anglo – Of course not! What’s wrong with you?! It’s a CHILDREN’S birthday party!

Latino- Claro que sí! … The cerveza is there in the cooler, hermano!

#6. Entertainment

Anglo – A strict schedule of organized activities and games for the children.

Latino – Niños, go play in the street or something. Stop bothering the grown ups! We’ll do the piñata later! Híjole!

#7. What’re we eating?

Anglo – Probably pizza.

Latino – Steak, chicken, rice, beans, salad, tortillas, etc. Load your styrofoam plate up until it’s ready to crack under the weight.

#8. When does the party end?

Anglo – Refer to your invitation. Thank your hosts and excuse yourself on the dot. Clear out!

Latino – Party until everyone’s tired and/or Tío Eduardo passes out on the couch while watching a fútbol game.

_______

Credit: Images by Eric Peacock and Paul Kelly used to create graphic.

Cascarones vs. Easter Eggs

The first year we made cascarones, I didn’t have any dye so I tried to decorate the entire egg with colored tissue paper and glue. It was messy and they didn’t turn out very pretty, so this year I decided to do it the right way and dye the eggs. I bought your typical $1 kit with colored tablets for egg-dyeing at Easter time – a package that is familiar to me from childhood. However, because these kits are meant for American-style Easter eggs, they come with additional items you don’t need for cascarones which apparently perplexed my 10 year old.

Him: What are these for? [picking up stickers and cardboard egg holders]

Me: We don’t need those. Those are for making American Easter eggs.

Him: You put stickers and these thingies on them before you break them on someone’s head?

Me: No, [laughing] You leave the egg in the shell and cook them – you know hard boiled eggs?

Him: [nods]

Me: Then you dye them, put stickers on them, and these little cardboard thingies are so you can display them until you eat them.

Him: You eat them?! That’s weird!

It kind of boggles my mind that my 10 year old couldn’t remember what regular Easter eggs are – I mean, I made them with them before? When they were little? In the past? Didn’t I?… I don’t remember anymore. Apparently, in recent years I’ve done such a good job of teaching the boys Latin American culture that I now need to step it up with showing them Anglo-American traditions from my own childhood.

Salvadoran Nacimientos vs. American Nativities

Our nativity scene

Nacimientos, or nativities, are something that both Carlos and I grew up with. In my case, the nativity was a simple wooden manger scene with plastic figures: Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus in a bed of straw, an angel, the three wisemen, a cow, a donkey, a couple sheep and their shepherd. My mother always placed the nativity beneath the Christmas tree and my sisters and I were allowed to play with it just like we played with our Barbies or any other toys where we’d act out elaborate storylines while laying on the carpet, completely lost in our own imaginations.

In Carlos’s case, the nacimiento of his childhood took up a large area of their house during the Christmas season. The clay figures included all the same characters we had, plus many more. Salvadoran nacimientos often look more like a bustling city than an intimate scene. No figure is considered inappropriate, from a woman at a pupusería, national soccer players, politicians, drunks, Chavo del 8, and short-skirted cheerleaders with batons known as “cachiporras” to the devil himself.

Carlos’s childhood nativity sounds like a dream come true! I can only imagine how many hours my sisters and I would have played with such a scene – except that Carlos tells me that playing with it was absolutely not allowed.

Now that we’re grown and married with our own household, we put up our own nativity scene. The first year we bought it and put it up, we had an argument about baby Jesus. Carlos couldn’t understand why I put baby Jesus into the manger and I couldn’t understand why he kept taking it out and hiding it. Carlos says that in El Salvador, you don’t put El Niño Jesús in the manger until he’s born. What I was doing – displaying the complete scene with the baby weeks before Christmas – made absolutely no sense to him – (Although cheerleaders attending the birth of Christ apparently makes sense, but I digress.)

For a few years, although I thought it was weird, I let him hide baby Jesus. I also insisted that by his logic, the three kings should be hidden until January, but he ignored me. At this point I must have gotten used to his way of doing things because when I set up the nativity, I handed Jesus over to him without a word and watched him stick him behind a picture frame on a shelf.

This year I’ve tried to make our Nativity a little more Salvadoran. I added a house plant as a palm tree and some rocks from la Libertad, but I definitely want to buy some characters in the years to come. I like the idea of expanding the nativity to look like a town in San Salvador… as long as Carlos let’s me play with it.

What kind of nativity do you have? Do you allow your children to play with the nativity? Why or why not?

Other links to check out:

Los tradicionales nacimientos de barro – Youtube video from ElSalvador.com

Aviones de Papel

[English translation below]

Un día nuestro hijito pidio que Carlos y yo hicieramos aviones de papel. Yo me fijé que Carlos hizo su avión bien diferente que el mio. Me puse a pensar si la diferencia entre nuestros aviones fue porque los salvadoreños aprenden a hacerlo de una manera y los gringos aprenden de otra.

¿Qué piensan ustedes? ¿Cómo doblas un avión de papel – como yo? Como Carlos?… o un estilo diferente?

Participaste en Spanish Friday? Deja tu link en comentarios!

English translation:

One day our son asked Carlos and I to make paper airplanes. I noticed that Carlos makes his paper airplanes really different from mine – It made me wonder if the difference between our airplanes was because Salvadorans learn to do it one way, and gringos learn to do it another way.

What do you guys think? How do you fold your paper airplane? Like me? Like Carlos?… or a different way?

Did you participate in Spanish Friday? Leave your link in comments!

Hello vs. Aló

I’ve made a lot of compromises to live in harmony – it’s a necessity for any household, especially a bi-cultural one. Most of the compromises cease to even feel like compromises because I’ve embraced them to the point that they’ve become second nature, but there is one thing that still makes me a little crazy.

The phone rings, I answer it.

“Hello?” I say.

Silence.

“Hello?” I say again.

Nervous shuffling. Someone is there but they aren’t answering me.

I sigh, knowing what I must do.

“Aló?” I say – as if English is not my native language.

Suddenly the caller comes to life speaking rapid-fire Spanish, now confident that they haven’t accidentally called a gringa’s house.

The next time the phone rings, I sigh.

“Aló?” I say, cutting to the chase.

On the other end, I hear my Anglo mother giggle.