Christmas · My Thoughts

Enjoy Three New Mexico Christmas Traditions!

A traditional New Mexico Christmas differs from the rest of the world with three amazing traditions: tamales, bisochitos and lumanarias. The first two add delicious flavor to any meal, and the last one lights up our towns!

Tamales

“Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish made with a corn based dough mixture that is filled with various meats or beans and cheese.  Tamales are wrapped and cooked in corn husks or banana leaves, but they are removed from the husks before eating. Try them served with pico de gallo on top and a side of guacamole and rice.”

https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/mexican-tamales/

I’m lucky because I have a dear friend in Branson, Colorado who usually gives us tamales when she makes them. When I grew up, I had a delicacy: sweet tamales that had fruit inside instead of meat. Growing up, I had these more often than the meat-filled tamale.

My husband’s Costa Rican ex-wife gives us each Christmas Costa Rican tamales, wrapped in banana leaves and some secret additions that are yummy!

When I went to Mexican as a young married in the 1970s, we ate dinner at a buffet featuring Mexican food. I saw “tamale” on one dish and grabbed one not reading closely, remembering the sweet tamales I had as a child. I choked as I swallowed the first bit of the tamale, thinking it would be sweet, but it had meat inside! So be prepared! There are two types: meat-filled or fruit-filled.

If you’re interested in fixing your own, here’s a YouTube video on how to do it:


Bisochitos

One of the Three New Mexican Traditions: Bisochitos
https://www.pastiansbakery.com/biscochitos

Bisochitos became the official state cookie of New Mexico in 1989, and if you’ve had one, you will know why! They melt in your mouth!

“There are several variations of this recipe, but the flavors are the same… cinnamon sugar and anise. Some people use shortening instead of lard. Some people use anise oil instead of the real thing. Some people use brandy or rum instead of white wine.”

http://www.tortillasandhoney.com/2012/04/biscochitos-new-mexicos-official-state.html

Albuquerque’s own Pastian’s Bakery tops my list for bisochitos: absolutely scrumptious! We square dance with Sheri Pastian, and normally we have the pleasure of eating Pastian’s bisochitos at any holiday dances.

Visit Pastian’s Bakery for the best and tell them Larada sent you: https://www.pastiansbakery.com/biscochitos


Lumanarias

Albuquerque and any town in New Mexico lights up at Christmas like the rest of the world, but traditionally we enjoy a different type of lights, lumanarias.

“The glowing brown sacks that adorn Albuquerque walkways, churches and homes each holiday season are called luminarias and date back more than 300 years. The New Mexican tradition began when the Spanish villages along the Rio Grande displayed the unique and easy to make Christmas lanterns, called luminarias to welcome the Christ child into the world. A traditional luminaria is a brown paper bag, which has been folded at the top, filled will a couple cups of sand and a votive candle.”

https://www.visitalbuquerque.org/about-abq/culture-heritage/holiday-traditions/luminarias/

Starting December 1st, we see big displays in many stores of stacks of paper sacks and votive candles to make our own lumanarias. Then all is needed is sand to put in the bottom of the sack to stabilize the bag.

If you don’t want to do it yourself, Boy Scout troops offer great deals and deliver luminarias by the dozen to your home.

Traditionally we put lumanarias out on Christmas Eve. In fact, there’s a great lumanaria tour to do around the Ole Town area and surrounding neighborhoods. I love the golden glow created by the lumanarias all lined up a row.

In 2008, my Mom and I drove down to Old Town on Christmas Eve and saw lumanarias decorating the plaza and the church, San Felipe de Neri Catholic church. The church also provided a live nativity scene. Here’s a chance to visit this inspiring church: https://sanfelipedeneri.org/

Tamales spice up a meal. Bisochitos end any holiday meal with the delicious anise and cinnamon flavor! Lumanarias light our path! Yes, a New Mexico Christmas enjoys these three local traditions.

I’m sure I’ve missed a favorite New Mexico Christmas tradition of yours? Let me know if I did. What are your local unusual holiday traditions? Share them with me!


~Visit my blog post from last week:

Merry Christmas - Just Another Square Dance Caller cover

~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY FOR A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR A LOVED ONE OR YOURSELF?   AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website and pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo and Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles. Good until December 20, 2020. Here’s the coupon link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft?coupon=25OFFSANDIA1220INDIV

Holidays · Life Lessons · My Thoughts · Thanksgiving

What’s Your Favorite Thanksgiving Memory?

Pictures of Thanksgiving
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Restrictions, stay-at-home suggestions, don’t travel! This year continues to alter our reality with the danger of a traditional large family gathering at Thanksgiving becoming a super-spreader!

I have a possible remedy for what we face this year for Thanksgiving! How about a trip down memory lane to happier times? I’ve had so many wonderful ones, it’s hard to identify my favorite.

During my childhood in my country town, family surrounded me on Thanksgiving Day. We enjoyed the traditional fare of turkey and all the trimmings at noon time. Dad and other sports enthusiast watched whatever football game that came on. Usually the Dallas Cowboy played on this holiday. Dad hated them and rooted for Dallas’ opponent, no matter who they were!

Thanksgiving at this table often
Our Round Table in Branson, Colorado Has Seen Lots of Games!

The rest of us gathered around the round table in my parents’ home for an afternoon and evening of unending games, laughter and fellowship! At times, three to four generations gathered there for some of my favorite holiday memories. My family has always taken pictures, anytime we were together, so that was a part of the ritual, too!

As a young married, I offered to cook my first Thanksgiving dinner in Denver, Colorado with both of our parents in attendance. My parents came up early and stayed with us. I woke Thanksgiving morning sick as a dog, so Mom stepped in and finished the preparations! I wonder if it was nerves? My mom and mother-in-law were cooking giants!

Waiting for Thanksgiving guests

A few years later, my first husband and I moved to Loveland, Colorado and again we invited both parents for the big holiday. A massive snowstorm hit, starting on Monday of Thanksgiving week, and it came down for days. We had feet of snow, and my parents canceled because of the four-hour drive north. My in-laws and sister-in-law braved the hour and half drive from Denver, and we celebrated the holiday with no game playing but an enjoyable time. It was my first Thanksgiving without my parents, so it was hard for me!

After I divorced and while I was going to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, I spent all of my Thanksgivings with Mom and Dad, at my home. We started a new tradition. Dad and Mom drove to Loveland or Fort Collins, Colorado (I moved to Fort Collins later), and we had our holiday meal at different restaurants in the area. “The Old Farmhouse” became our favorite with seating in the various rooms of an actual old farmhouse. Then the Saturday night after Thanksgiving, we drove to Boulder to attend the Boulder Dinner Theater. My dad was this old cowboy who lit up with live music and performances! We did this for the four years I attended the university.

After graduation, I taught in Denver, Colorado my first year, then I moved to Raton, New Mexico, and another tradition began for my four years there. Dad, Mom and I drove to Alamogordo, New Mexico to share Thanksgiving with my half-sister and her family. We had memorable times of good food, laughter and lots of games.

When I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, I returned home for Thanksgiving yearly, but the gatherings were smaller. We still enjoyed delicious food and fun game time around Mom’s round table with my aunt and my cousin’s family. The weekend after Thanksgiving, we would go out to our ranch and cut down Christmas trees for Mom, my classroom or friends and me. Our fresh cut trees lasted so well throughout the holiday season. We also cut fresh cedar boughs—I love their delicious smell!

Dad’s last Thanksgiving was memorable yet sad. My nephew, Andy, had come to help Mom with Dad’s care after his recent hospitalization. On the Friday after Thanksgiving and a snowstorm, we drove out to our ranch to cut down trees as usual. As we faced a sizable drift to get to the trees, I told a young Andy, “See where you need to get. Punch it and drive like hell!”

His eyes twinkled with my permission to speed and with a giggled, we plowed through the drift easily, cut down our trees and created a memory we reference often!

When Ted and I got together, he had a Thanksgiving tradition I adopted, with a heavy heart at first. He regularly attended a round dance festival in Dallas, Texas that began the Monday of Thanksgiving week with the local round dance cuers cuing each night and workshopping during the day. The official festival began on Friday and lasted through Sunday. On Thanksgiving night, Ted and I would dance with a square dance club we both loved instead of round dancing.

No family, my Mom alone—the first one I felt horrible, but she consoled me and said you have to live your life! I grew to love the festival but hated missing time with Mom.

After Ted and I broke up, it was Mom and me. We shared the holiday with my cousin and her family. On Friday morning after Thanksgiving, Mom and I drove fifty miles to Trinidad, Colorado early in the morning to take advantage of the Black Friday sales. She absolutely loved the crowds and the craziness!

Then Lin and I married, and the three of us started a delightful tradition: Thanksgiving dinner out at the High Noon Restaurant and Saloon in Old Town Albuquerque. We booked our reservation for dinner around Lin’s tradition of watching football games all day. This restaurant provided a complete meal at our table for our size party then sent us home with all the leftovers! Mom loved this special place.

After Mom passed away, Lin and I continued that tradition for a couple years, but then I decided to cook our meal the last couple years. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and football dominated the day.

As, I stood at the counter to prepare the crust for my pumpkin pies, Mom joined me in my heart because I used her remarkable pie crust recipe given to her by our family’s doctor in 1953! Instead of grieving the loss of so many of my family as I moved around the kitchen, I remembered them all and the great times we’ve had.

Last year, my brother joined us for Thanksgiving, and we had a delightful time, our first Thanksgiving together in a long time.

This year, it’s Lin and me with the restrictions in place. So, yes, I’ve wondered about Thanksgiving 2020, but as I’ve remembered my previous celebrations, I am grateful for my family and the memories I will have forever!

So, my suggestion to you is take the time these next couple days before Thanksgiving, to walk back in time and remember those special celebrations and especially the people who made them so.  Then share them with me!


~Visit my two blog posts from last week:

Cover of Just Another Square Dance Caller

~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY?   AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website and pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles. Good until December 20, 2020. Here’s the coupon link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft?coupon=25OFFSANDIA1220INDIV

Christmas · family · Memoirs · My Thoughts

Are Holiday Traditions Important?

I’m a tradition-based holiday person–I love the familiar and the repetitious. As a child, our home-spun traditions centered on our family. We cut our own Christmas tree on our family ranch when we used to have lots of snow, so it was cold and messy but joyful and an adventure. I often had sap all over my hands.

Because we didn’t have a lot of money, presents were few and heartfelt. I wrote letters to Santa and dreamed about my gifts, looked at a Monkey Ward’s catalog and dog-earred pages so I could revisit it often.

I dressed up in my Christmas outfit, and we ate Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparent’s house across town. When we got to the car, often Dad forgot something and went back inside to retrieve it (later I realized that’s when Santa came!).

My grandparent’s house filled quickly with our family and my aunt and uncle’s family. Often our two great aunts from Tulsa, Oklahoma joined us and gave us $2 bills because one of them worked at a bank. The highlight of the evening was Granddad leading a parade of children from the front door to the back after he shouted, “I saw Santa Claus!”

We would return home after eating a savory dinner and opening our presents to see that Santa had visited our home, and I realized my dreams.

Christmas Day was low-keyed and filled with hours of playing with my new toys.

This scenario repeated itself most years, so you can see the deep family traditions I love.

As an adult, the magic of Santa changed, but Christmas continued to be a magical time for me with my new grown-up traditions. From my first husband, I added Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at an Episcopal church to my Christmas traditions, and church became a regular part of my celebration.

After my first husband and I divorced, Dad and Mom joined me in this tradition, and we drove to Trinidad, Colorado each Christmas Eve to the Lutheran church for Midnight Mass–some of our most memorable conversations happened on those late night 50-mile drives home.

As a middle school teacher for twenty-seven years, I put together a wild collection of holiday t-shirts, sweatshirts, pants and jewelry that I started wearing the Monday after Thanksgiving–I’m still adding to this collection today.

I love writing our Christmas letter that features what we’ve done for the year. This is my 30th year of writing this, and I enjoy the process of looking a back and summarizing the activity of the year.

I cherish baking Christmas candy and goodies because it reminds me of Mom and all the fun we had in the kitchen–I use a lot of her delicious recipes. And I love sending Christmas cards–I don’t receive that many anymore, but as I address each card, I’m flooded with memories of each person on my list, and it’s a celebration of my family and friends.

The last tradition I will share is one my Mom started in 1988. I was going to codependency treatment on December 22 and wouldn’t be home for Christmas. She put together ten Advent gifts–one to open each day before Christmas, starting on December 15th. I packed the remaining gifts to take with me to treatment but had the shock of my life. They went through my bags, opened each of the unopened gifts, thought a bag of potpourri was marijuana, and confiscated it.  Even though I lost the opportunity to open the remaining Advent gifts, I felt Mom’s presence in a special way that Christmas in those gifts.

We continued that tradition until she died, and I joined in the gift exchange and gave her little nonsensical gifts. We added Aunt Willie and Lin–they enjoyed this tradition.

For me, the various traditions have blessed me deeply and shaped me into the person I am during the holidays. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Are traditions important to you? Share your thoughts with me! I’d love to hear from you!

Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for big discounts! You have time to download any of my e-books for stocking stuffers!

Visit my web site for more information about all my books–FREE DOWNLOADS AVAILABLE AS MY GIFT TO YOU!  https://www.laradasbooks.com

MY NEW WRITING PROJECT: Pre-order the authorized biography of Marshall Flippo, the most famous square dance caller at https://goo.gl/forms/buMf6zCG8Wen4muo2

Christmas · family · Memoirs · My Thoughts

What are Your Christmas Traditions?

In my country childhood, we had many Christmas traditions: the fun and adventure of cutting down a tree from our ranch, hilarious Christmas programs at the church and school, and fun-filled Christmas caroling around our small town. Our family dominated this holiday’s focus.

My dad’s parents lived in the same town, so most Christmas Eve’s were spent at their house with family. See what a traditional Christmas Eve looked like at the Horner’s house!

Santa & Reindeer Graphic

Christmas at the Horner’s

It was a big affair,
     especially when Granddad got all
     sixteen grandchildren together.
That meant a holiday house full.

Each year, my Christmas outfit was always special.
One year
     a white dress with a gathered skirt,
     trimmed in red,
     made by Mom.

Grandma, decked out in her festive apron,
      worried over the meal.
She made the best mashed potatoes,
     smothered in butter.
Granddad’s job came after dinner.

The table was set on the porch so
     we could all fit,
          a long line of smiles and laughter.

For those of us who knew the tradition,
     anticipation set in.
We tried to hurry the process,
     with no success.

Finally after a leisurely cup of coffee and a cigarette,
     Granddad would disappear to the front door.

His shout rang through the whole house!
     It had begun.

“I just saw Santa Claus fly over. Come quick.”

We’d race to the front door,
     and
he would race to the back door.

“No, no he’s out here now. Come this way.”

We’d race to the back door.
This would go on for
     what seemed like eternity,
     and I never did see Santa, a reindeer,
          or his sleigh.
               I was always a second too late!
But this also meant that it was time
     to open our gifts that had mysteriously spilled out from
          under the Christmas tree.

A traditional Christmas with the Horner’s meant
     cousins,
     aunts and uncles,
     sometimes great aunts
          from Tulsa, Oklahoma,
     good food,
     lots of laughter,
and
     traditions that filled my heart with joy and
          family connection!

Copyright © 2014 Larada Horner-Miller
from This Tumbleweed Landed


What was your favorite Christmas tradition? I’d love to hear from you.

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