Today is my guest is Hebby Roman and she is telling us about Latino Christmas Customs.
LATINO CHRISTMAS CUSTOMS
I was born and raised on the Texas-Mexico border, and my husband of 25+ years is Puerto Rican. When I began writing romance, I wanted to bring my background to my books, so most of the characters in my books have been Latino.
My first print published book, BETRAYED, was a historical romance set in my husband’s homeland of Puerto Rico. And my latest release from The Wild Rose Press, THE PRINCESS AND THE TEMPLAR, is a medieval romance featuring a Spanish Templar knight as the hero who falls in love with an Irish princess.
From the beginning of my writing, I believed that casting Latino characters in my romances gives me a new and unique richness of culture and customs to draw upon. In turn, I hope my characters and their customs make my romances more interesting and vivid for readers.
When I wrote BETRAYED, I learned that Spanish colonists in Puerto Rico imported some very different Christmas customs than those we see on Hallmark television. But there is a great deal of similarities, too, between the cultures. I learned to honor our shared customs while respecting our differences.
Of course, a big part of the differences is that most Latinos’ religion is Catholic, so their religious observances and customs are definitely not Bing Crosby and a White Christmas. But culture, as well as the Church, has played a big role in Spanish Christmas customs.
Las Navidades is the Latino holiday season, and it stretches from Nochebuena, Christmas Eve through Los Tres Magos, The Three Wisemen’s Day on January 6th, whereas our holiday tradition usually lasts only through New Year’s Day.
But as I mentioned before, there are some customs that are similar to ours, like our Christmas caroling. Latino culture is enthusiastic about their music, and neighbors often serenade one another with Christmas songs or parrandas. But neighborhood serenading isn’t the only music reigning as king during the holidays. Every morning before dawn during Las Navidades at the local Catholic church, there are Misas de Aquinaldo or Christmas carol masses that culminate on Christmas Eve day with the Misa de Gallo or the Rooster Mass, so called because Latino traditional says a rooster crowed at midnight, heralding Jesus’ birth.
In addition to music, the Latino culture features parades in the streets, balls given by the wealthy, and exhibitions of fine horses — not so different from today. But instead of giving to our favorite charity, Latino culture hosted aquinaldos, where a group of poor people carried a box through the streets with a brightly painted statue of one of the Catholic saints. The box was filled with flowers around the saint’s feet. And if the aquinaldo came to your front door, you were given the option of procuring the blessing of the saint by giving alms to the poor.
Unlike our Christmas Day that features copious gift giving, Latinos exchange only token gifts on the Christ Child’s birthday. Their main day of gifting is on January 6th, Los Treys Magos, when the three Wise Men traditionally gifted the baby Jesus with frankincense, myrrh, and gold.
There are a lot of similarities between our prevailing culture and Latino traditions: music and singing, attending church, and giving to the poor. But there are other differences, too, interesting differences.
And those differences are what I believe gives my stories a unique and interesting perspective. I hope you’ll enjoy them, too.
Blog by Hebby Roman.