Several years ago I celebrated Christmas in Ecuador with my family. It was a different experience, being in a warm climate, by the beach. Still I was surprised by the number of Nacimientos that I saw displayed as we walked around. Belen was reconstructed in detail, and at the center of the towns, were humbly constructed mangers. Here in the US, it is not unusual to see lots of homes decked out in holiday lights. But Nacimientos? Not so much.
Seeing all the elaborately constructed nativities helped me understand why my mom always seemed to regard her roughly constructed pesebre (manager) with such fondness. It also reminded me that in many other parts of the world, Christmas is a time to reflect on a sacred mystery rather than to focus on gift-giving. The exchange of gifts still occurs among many Spanish speaking families on Three King’s Day, also known as Epiphany, which occurs on January 6th. I didn’t grow up celebrating Three King’s Day, however, my family has adopted in recent years partly as a way of extending the holiday season. My children enjoy putting out the hay for the camels, and thinking about the Magi’s gifts of gold, incense, and myrhh.
I imagine that many families that are blending different cultures and heritages must figure out which traditions make sense to incorporate or adjust. How are you celebrating this holiday season, what traditions are you keeping?