Friday, March 1, 2024

Guest Blogger: Joe Ray “Our Holiday Tradiciones”

Joe RayGrowing up near the Mexican border and having spent a few of my first few Holiday seasons in Sonora as well as Arizona, provided me the opportunity to observe and take part in various Holiday traditions.

My family’s personal tradition of devotion was honoring Our Lady (La Virgen) de Guadalupe on December 12. This began around Thanksgiving by adorning our framed print of La Virgen with flashing Christmas lights, rosaries and constructing the piece into an electronic Christmas altar. We had other saints around the house, but none compared to the Virgen’s status.

This past 12/12/12, I joined about 30 others in a ceremony honoring Our Lady de Guadalupe/Tonantzin. It warmed my heart to see all of us gathered here for this touching ceremony.

Tamales, champurado, and atole. All treats that bring the Holiday season back to life for me with a great fondness. Of course, in addition to Christmas, there’s El Día de Los Reyes Magos (3 Kings Day), this being a celebratory day and one of reflection as well. I’m also touched to see this particular day celebrated more often in the past decade by more acculturated Latinos, bringing many others into the fold.

In thinking about this post, I discussed traditions with a couple of other friends who also shared theirs with me.

My friend Carlos, a Chicano who grew up in a small town in Arizona, shared this tradition/memory:

His Abuelo was the ringmaster of the family’s tamale making endeavors. This began with him buying roasts immediately after Halloween, and once the hojas hit the grocery shelves, he made sure to stock up.

One particular memory that has stuck out in Carlos’ mind was getting around his Nana’s strict guidelines for perfect masa. The test consisted of dropping some masa into a glass of warm water. If fluffy enough, it would float. Carlos’ Tata let him in on a secret…adding a teaspoon of salt would allow the masa to rise in the glass.

Since then, his masa always rose to the occasion, passing Nana’s test.

Bertica is from the Dominican Republic. She reminisced about the food on Noche Buena, but what I found most fascinating was her family’s celebration in bringing in the new year. This was a dressy affair with a big dinner (we love our food, don’t we?), where everyone was given 12 grapes. The grapes would be eaten as the 12 campanadas would ring. If you were able to do this and not choke, it indicated you would have a good year.

This sounds like something my cousins and I would have been doing, and been recipients of chancletazos. I love it.

My friend Conchita came from Cuba as a young girl. Her family’s tradition was attending mass to celebrate the Holy Day of Obligation, as well as her patron saint, Maria de la Concepcíon (whom she’s named after). Additionally, the large Immaculate Concepcíon has always been a framed, magical piece of art which serves as an altar centerpiece.  Concepcíon now resides in Conchita’s house.

Having a patron saint honored and celebrated during the Holidays has always been an extra special tradition for the majority of Latinos. It’s part of our culture. It’s in our DNA. It is our devotion and faith(s), even if we don’t adhere to our original and particular faiths and religions. It’s who we are.

These traditions are part of our new America.

It’s the evolution of Las Posadas. It’s our cultural evolution.

Joe Ray is Vice President of Multicultural Marketing at E.B. Lane, a full service marketing and advertising agency with offices in Phoenix and Denver. Joe’s experience includes working with Pfizer, Bic USA, Dawn Foods Intl, Medicis Dermatology, State Farm, La Tradición, Super Bowl Host Committee, and The Arizona Lottery. Additionally, Joe is a conference speaker and presenter whose topics include: Reaching Latino Audiences, Health/Wellness Education for Multicultural Audiences, Brand Building, Packaging Design, Social Media, Arts & Culture, and Community Activism. He can be reached at


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