New Holiday Traditions Inspired By My Culture


I remember growing up with an amazing chef for a grandmother, my abuelita, and family traditions started in the kitchen. I used to think to myself why couldn’t we just have a normal Thanksgiving feast with turkey and mashed potatoes like everyone else? Thanksgiving and any holiday or special event with my family consisted of tamales, mole, menudo, rice, beans, hand-made flour tortillas and buñuelos (cinnamon chips) for dessert. I know what you’re thinking, why on earth would I complain about that?

My grandmother is now 94 and unfortunately, she relies on our poor cooking for the holidays. I have some great stories to tell my children about all my cooking fails standing beside my grandmother, but the worst was my inability to perfect the round tortillas –  my tortillas came out looking like the states.

But guess what we eat now? Turkey and mashed potatoes! I wish I could go back to those traditional Mexican feasts she would whip for us or that one of us inherited her natural cooking skills. Now it’s up to me to come up with a few NEW traditions in preparation for Thanksgiving and upcoming holidays.

In honor of my abuelita, I will start with a food recipe.

Starting my own family traditions:

  1. Pozole

While I am not the best cook, nor do I have the patience to attempt a full Mexican feast, I have found I can incorporate bits and pieces of our culture into our now traditional turkey meal. Pozole is something I started making for my family last year during holiday meals (only holidays). It’s basically a delicious green chile soup with hominy and shredded chicken. This is a great starter dish before the big meal. Check out my favorite recipe on Pinterest. If you want to make it spicy substitute a few of the jalapeños with serrano peppers. My grandmother was very proud of my dish! 

  1. Tree of Thankfulness

Thanksgiving is a time for my family to express gratitude and kindness so we may ignite a joyful and giving spirit for the holidays. Growing up we had tons of family prayer time which I believe lead me as an adult to begin the Tree of Thankfulness. I bought a white bare tree and had all the kids of the family cut leaves out of construction paper. We punched holes and pulled and tied a string through the leaves so they act like ornaments on the tree. During Thanksgiving, everyone writes on a leaf what they are most thankful for. Every year we decorate with the old leaves from the year prior and on Thanksgiving we replace them with the new leaves. These are fun to read before mealtime as a family.

  1. Table Runner Handprints

At holiday celebrations, my abuelita typically decorated with her fanciest handmade crochet dollies. I don’t have this talent, but it inspired me to purchase a plain white table runner and try the handprint tradition, which will double as a decoration and a fun craft each year for our family. Bonus: keepsake for my girls!

  1. Family Photo

Mom always had a disposable camera around to take a few photos for the holidays. So every year we set the timer on our phones and snap FUNNY family photos. It’s been so fun to pull these pictures up every year!

  1. Movies

Telenovelas! Spanish soap operas were our THING growing up. My mom, my grandmother, me and even my dad would join in on the drama. Picture Jane the Virgin, yes, this is accurate! I’ve watched telenovelas since in the womb, and I can recall a few of my favorites. While I don’t watch these now with my children (haha different times) we do love to watch movies together on the holidays. This brings our family together in a cozy environment all while sipping on some Nestle Abuelita hot chocolate. Have you tried it? Please do! P.S. When I sit down with my kids to watch movies I typically flip it to Spanish audio to help train their brain to understand both languages. I wish I would’ve started them sooner, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it – I’m doing what I can now!

  1. Family Baking

I will end this with another recipe because food is obviously life! Buñuelos have and always will be a tradition in our family. This dessert is a great way to end our holiday meals but I would also suggest this as a treat for a friendsgiving potluck. I sat down with my mom and we went through our family recipe to put on paper for you! Download the Buñuelos recipe. Try it with your little ones. Enjoy!

I’d love to hear about your family cultural traditions – drop a comment!


  1. Mary,

    This brings back so many memories! Sometimes I wish we could move back in the clock for some of these warm family moments…. Well on to making new memories…

    Wonderful piece!


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