Coming Home with Tamales in Tow

Standing in the grocery store, we’re trying to remember if we really have everything we need to get through this week before our Christmas travels. Breakfasts… lunch supplies… dinner… snacks for the car… I’m running through the lists in my head.

Anything we need for our trip? For Christmas? “Hey,” I tell my husband. “We should call the Mexican restaurant in my parents’ town and see if they can tell us where to get tamales this year.”

Our last Christmas in Kentucky, we searched fruitlessly, basically just driving around the Latino community of the nearest city and popping into convenient stores with Spanish names. No luck.

There’s really no such thing as “coming home” for the multicultural family. I feel most aware of this at Christmas.

We’re constantly merging celebratory traditions from our own backgrounds. But in reality, we’ve created our own third culture, unique to our family. This process is quite common for those who transition cultures. (You can read a great, pictorial description here.)

Fireworks at midnight are a big part of Billy’s experience, but not so much here. So every Christmas Eve, we bust out sparklers about 7pm and call it a night.

I love stockings, so those are hung each year by the fake fireplace with care. (In fact, one year they were about the only decorations that made it out of the storage bins because I like them so much.)

And as we celebrate more and more Christmases together, I’m realizing tamales are now part of my expectation and our family’s tradition. When I think of coming home for Christmas, I am in a constant state of not-quite-fitting-in, but also fitting into several cultures in my own, little way.

I am thankful that cross-cultural experiences draw me closer to Jesus. Because I feel like Jesus probably understands this awkward state fitting in, but not fitting in.

As he arrived in this world, he was fully man, but totally not. He engaged in the traditions of his Jewish surroundings, but also turned them on end with the reality of his being fully God as well.

There’s something comforting as I reflect on the arrival of the culture-jumping Christ child. (Although when I write it like that, the image in my head is a little more “Beam me up, Scotty” than “May I see your passport?”)

I feel relief at welcoming a God who says, “I’ll see your global Christmas and raise you one ‘this world is not my home.’” The experience of God is big enough. His arrival in a manger can encompass all the backgrounds we carry and welcome us in beloved community to experience the supernatural together.

I just love that.

Image credit: Vito Galgano

I'm linking up with Synchroblog this month on the theme of "Coming Home." Click here to read other posts in this series.


  1. Emily9:56 AM


    Thank you so much for your reflections in this post. In Mission Year, I lived in the same black community for two years. Post Mission Year, after much prayer and thought, I decided to stay an active part of that same community. It's been harder post Mission Year for me...there is that sense that I've connected with this community, and feel like I have a place among them, but then again.....this sense that I'm not quite there, that I don't quite fit in.

    Through the past few months, I have struggled with loneliness and finding people who do understand what I'm processing. I've found encouragement in many of your blogs, including this one. I'm thankful for the reminder that Jesus was in a misplaced culture as well. While I intellectually knew he was an immigrant, it hadn't quite hit me that he could relate to my experience and how I feel as a forever triangle, but I guess he is the ultimate forever triangle. :)


  2. jodylouise5:03 AM

    "When I think of coming home for Christmas, I am in a constant state of not-quite-fitting-in, but also fitting into several cultures in my own, little way."

    I sooo understand! We'll have either curry or McDonald's for Christmas this year in Sri Lanka and exchange that with ham, green bean casserole and snow next year :)

  3. Sarah, Thanks for participating in the December synchroblog. Your post reminds me that even though we may come from different places and different backgrounds and different cultures and even believe different things we all "fit in" in the Kingdom of God when we follow in the way of Jesus.

  4. So true. Thanks for including me, Liz!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Emily. (And thanks for passing along that article to me - LOVED it!)

    You are absolutely right that it can feel a struggle to feel lonely, but yes, Jesus understands us! And there are also so many other triangles out there who are a source of encouragement as well.

    So grateful for your honesty and your sharing. :)

  6. Those are some amazingly beautiful, yet very different, Christmas traditions! I hope you all have a terrific visit!


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