Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Christmas Story

I can't believe Christmas is almost here. The mail strewn on my kitchen counter tells me that I'm already behind on my holiday cards. And I'll be honest, Christmas isn't one of my favorite holidays. I'm much more comfortable celebrating Halloween or Thanksgiving, were I can gorge on candy or stuff myself with turkey. Sure, I love getting presents, but I'd gladly forgo gifts and holiday merriment, in exchange for not having to shop for last minute gifts.

Now, what I do love about the holidays are all the memories I have of my family during that time. Never one to be conventional, our family always celebrates together on Christmas Eve. Every year, the entire lot travels to my aunt's place, doing last minute runs to Feldman's Liquor, piling all the presents for the cousins in the back of the mini-van, to be rewarded by the savoring aroma of brisket as soon as we enter the door (we're from Texas, okay?). Not to mention the heaping pile of steamy tamales (to clarify, we're from South Texas) that my aunts prepare special for the occasion. Shortly after we load our plates up with goodies, we gather around the television set to watch A Christmas Story on TNT, for what seems to be for the umpteenth time that day, before gifts are finally exchanged in-between helpings of brisket and beans.

But there was one Christmas Eve we didn't gather. That was the year that will forever be known as the South Texas Christmas Miracle. For that particular day in 2004 boasted the biggest snowfall in Brownsville. I remember waking up that morning to my mother exclaiming, "it's snowing! Come look!" My response? Some sort of morning grumble - I think I even threw a shoe - followed by, "it's just frost. I'm not waking up to look at frost." Now, by this time, I was a bonafide expert when it came to snow. I had lived in the Washington, D.C. area several years now and had already experienced blizzards and snow day closings, so I knew what I was talking about. But when I finally managed to drag myself out of bed later that morning...there it was, greeting me in all its fluffy white splendor. Snow. That day, Brownsville, Texas made national headlines for having the greatest snowfall in day...a whopping 1.5 inches. Yes, that's inches, not feet. It was the first measurable accumulation of snow in the area since 1895. In a place were palm trees line the streets in almost every neighborhood and the Gulf of Mexico is just a few short minutes away, we finally witnessed our first official White Christmas.

Even I had to admit, it was kind of impressive, given that the year before I wore shorts and flops to Christmas Eve dinner. And now there I was, having travelled all the way from D.C. to visit family, only to being told that "there's too much snow on the ground, so we can't go to Tia Toni's." That's right, amigos, dinner, gifts, and holiday cheer was ultimately postponed a day, until everyone felt "safe" enough to travel. I had to laugh about the entire ordeal, really. The roads were too warm for any of the snow to actually stick and all the white powder soon melted of roofs and lawns by noon, but it was truly a Christmas to remember and surely one for the record books. Some even capitalized on our little miracle: one couple wrote a coffee table book, while others displayed some entrepreneurial holiday spirit and sold snow on eBay (some poor souls actually bid on it).

It's been a few years since I've been home for the holidays and if memory serves, that might have been the last Christmas I spent at home with my family. Oh, I still manage to go home once or twice a year, but usually when I can avoid the holiday spike in airfare. And no matter what time of the year I visit my family, there's still plenty of brisket, beans, and tamales to go around...and I always remember to bring my flops.


This essay is part of 12 Days of Christmas Reading promotion that runs from December 10 - December 22.  If you want to check out the other fabulous writers participating in this promotion, check it out here. Make sure you leave a comment to enter to win some great books, including a copy of Parallel. 


  1. Sounds like a very fun Christmas tradition! What could be better than brisket and tamales??? I live in West TN, and we dont get much snow here either. This year it has already snowed twice and we are all excited haha! I wouldnt know what to do if we lived somewhere where it snowed all the time! I think i just might love it!! Hope you have a very blessed Christmas!!

  2. We had our first white Christmas in decades last year! Seven inches! :)

    Tamales for Christmas? I could get into that. LOL

  3. @Mama Lee - it's a pretty casual affair. Thankfully, since I now celebrate with my husband's family, it's still pretty casual. The one thing I missing is the brisket!! We haven't had snow here yet in the DC area, but it's coming...

    @lauralynn - oh yes, tamales are a big thing in South Texas for the holidays. My aunts spend days making the tamales to give out to friends/family. Unfortunately, I never learned how. I can make them, I just can't spread the maza on the husk! It's an art.

  4. I can't imagine warm weather at Christmas. Actually, I did go to Hawaii in mid-December once, and it was festive despite being tropical. It isn't like we get snow at Christmas in Oregon, but it's always cold and usually blustery. My extended family gatherings are nothing like they were when I was a kid, but that's okay, things change. Still, it must be nice to be able to picture what your family's up to when you can't be there with them. :)

  5. @J.R. - The hubby and I went to the Dominican Republic 2 years ago (his family likes to travel during the holidays), so I can imagine what the holidays must be like in Hawaii!


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