How Nochebuena Saved Christmas

Our first Christmas together, Billy and I spent in our apartment in L.A. We could not travel due to documentation issues, so the holiday became a jarring transition into marriage for me. It was my first ever away from my family.

I didn't really prepare emotionally for such a change. Billy had an emergency root canal two days before that Christmas, and all I remember from that first Christmas is falling asleep trying to watch a movie. That and an overwhelming sadness at the lonely holiday experience.

Last week was our eighth Christmas together, but only the second one away from my family. I found myself feeling nervous at the approaching days of round-the-clock parenting and worried that I would again be overcome with loneliness.

Still, it was fun to see Gabriella interested in Christmas more than any previous year. And I was excited to create some fun, family moments with her.

I am a planner by nature, so when an upcoming situation has me concerned or excited, I make a list. I started badgering Billy about each day of the week: which days were we each working, what was our Nochebuena plan, who had said they were coming, what were we doing Christmas morning.

One of the benefits, I think, of cross-cultural marriage is how we are always actively negotiating multiple cultures and the way it influences our expectations. The more Christmases we have spent together, the more we have incorporated traditions from both of our families, from both of our cultures.

Consequently, I do not have the expectation that my kids' Christmas experience will mirror mine exactly as a child. There is ponche and "fireworks" and a festive evening meal. And Billy also anticipates our American traditions of stockings and presents on Christmas morning.

Nochebuena helped me this year as we created our own family Christmas. Billy and I had the opportunity to collaborate on the traditions we wanted to include.

Even though it was strange to celebrate without extended family, the festivities didn't feel lacking because we combining our favorites from both. I was able to bake Chex Mix and serve tamales. It was a nice blend of what we both love best about the holidays.

I know we won't spend every Christmas away from family. But I was thankful for our fusion Nochebuena/Christmas this year and the friends it included. I wasn't expecting to create a childhood replica for my kids. Instead, we fashioned traditions just for them: a bicultural Christmas for bicultural kiddos. And it was joyful.

I hope your holidays were rowdy and peaceful, cuddly and dance party-y. What traditions do you include that were not part of your childhood?

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