Create a Multicultural Holiday By Elysse Hopkins
Illustrator of Candy Kingdom and I Hope Your Dreams Are Sweet
Culture is a complex word. We often use it to describe and set apart whole populations and groups, but we can also use it to describe the habits and customs of our everyday lives. We can use it to describe places and beliefs we associate ourselves with, or we can use it to describe the environment created within those structures. I like to think we are a melting pot of many cultures, whether by birth, circumstance, or choice. Our lives are filled with the obvious and more subtle rituals and practices associated with these vital elements of our identities.
Recently, author Stephanie Morris and I released a bedtime book titled I Hope Your Dreams Are Sweet. It features a mixed-race family with a Caucasian father and a Latina mother and their son and daughter. We chose this family dynamic because every family is a combination of cultures. Every person and family has a unique heritage and culture, whether the members are from different countries, from various towns in the same state, or even next-door neighbors. As the illustrator, I tried to include elements in this family's home that might be found in a mixed-family home with Latin-American influence. For example, on the couch, you'll notice an intricately embroidered Otomi pillow and, on the kitchen table, a woven saraperunner. There are remnants of a dinner of tamales and beans on their plates. The home is also painted and decorated in bright colors. A little later in the story, the daughter is wearing a colorfully embroidered blouse with huarache sandals. All these details stem from various Mexican cultures.
Similar to how this family celebrates their culture by household decorations, we celebrate our cultures through the special holidays and events in our lives. These may be religious celebrations, life events, or community group events, and they may be celebrated by many or a few. With the onset of cooler months come myriad holidays and celebratory occasions for people around the world. This season carries a beautiful feeling with it of time with family, food, music, and religious devotion. Let's talk about some ways the family in I Hope Your Dreams Are Sweet might celebrate the coming holidays in their home, as well as you in yours!
You are likely familiar with the holiday Halloween with its fun costumes, spooky tones, and sweet treats. Did you know it shares the same date as a holiday that has great significance to people in Mexico? It's Día de los Muertos! The Disney movie Coco is an excellent introduction for all ages to this Mexican two-day celebration, honoring ancestors who have passed on. (This year, it was celebrated on November 1 and 2.) In Mexico, people honor their families by framing pictures of their loved ones, decorating with colorful sugar skulls and marigolds, baking delicious food to remember what their family liked to eat during their lives, adorning graves, and sharing stories. If skeletons aren't your thing, don't let that scare you away from incorporating this holiday in your home. Focus on remembering loved ones, discovering their history, revisiting family recipes, and rejoicing in their influence in your lives.
For Christmas, often the biggest celebration in Latin American cultures takes place on Christmas Eve, or Nochebuena. This is a time for families and friends to gather for good food, music, exchanging gifts, celebrating Christ's birth, and dancing late into the night. The family in I Hope Your Dreams Are Sweet would likely gather with grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles to eat a delicious dinner of tamales and pozole, a traditional meat and hominy stew. The mother of the story and the other women in her family would chat and laugh in the kitchen while forming an assembly line to make those delicious dishes. Making tamales is a family event. While serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Oregon among the Latino populations there, I had the delectable opportunity to eat lots of tamales. I learned firsthand from several women how to make them. My favorite is tamales of chicken mole wrapped in banana leaves. Your family might be blessed to receive tamales as gifts from neighbors, or you might know of families that make and sell them during the holidays for others to enjoy. You might even try your hand at making them! Tamales are one thing you can happily incorporate from this culture in your home during the holidays.
Warm Holiday Drinks
The cold months call for warming up with delicious treats like steaming chocolate (Mexican hot chocolate with cinnamon), atole (a warm beverage made with rice or cornmeal), or champurrado (chocolate atole) enjoyed by dipping warm pan dulce (sweet bread) into the tasty liquid. The family in I Hope Your Dreams Are Sweet could be found snuggled in a warm blanket on the couch enjoying these sweet treats! Instead of the traditional hot chocolate with peppermint, consider trying a recipe for one of these yummy drinks!