Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) is when we have our big celebratory dinner with all the trimmings. All our family and friends who don't have close family in the area eat, toast, and dance (yes, dance) and celebrate while teasing the kids as they wait on pins and needles for Santa to show up after midnight. Of course, we borrowed Santa. Traditionally, Santa Claus was not part of our culture.
It used to be that the kids had to wait until January 6th, El Dia De Los Reyes or Three Kings Day, to receive presents. I remember leaving water and grass for the camels, and something special for "my" King -- we each chose our own. I used to love that anticipation when I was a little girl.
The celebration is usually done by midnight when adults exchange gifts and children (if they're awake) receive a token. They still have to wait until Christmas morning to find out what Santa left for them. Some adults go to a midnight service, others celebrate a bit longer, and still others will go home to get ready for Christmas day. It's a long night! A beautiful night that we look forward to all year long, and a cultural tradition that we have passed along to our children throughout the years.
Here's a great book I found about this tradition. It's a children's book and quite appropriate:
La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story by Antonio Sacre, illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Nina is visiting her grandmother in Miami for Christmas. Usually she spends it in snowy New England with her mother and her family, but this year is different. She isn’t certain what to make of a hot and humid holiday, until she learns the traditions of her father’s side of the family from her Cuban grandmother. She helps prepare for the evening and takes part in all their traditions—the intricate cooking for the feast, the dancing, the music, and the gathering of relatives and neighbors. It all comes together for a Noche Buena that Nina will never forget.
Antonio Sacre and Angela Dominguez have created a wonderful story that everyone who celebrates Christmas will enjoy. The book includes a glossary of Spanish words.
About the author
Antonio Sacre is a Cuban-American writer, storyteller, and performance artist. He lives in Los Angeles. Visit him online here.
Angela Dominguez was born in Mexico City and lives in northern California. She illustrated Ava Tree and the Wishes Three and Carmen Learns English. Visit her online here.
Twas the Night Before Christmas,
When all through the house
There were sounds of laughter,
Rumba, Mambo, Son
and joy all around.
Merry Christmas Everyone!