Blended Holidays

One of the things I love about Guatemala is the fact that everyone celebrates hard here. Life isn’t easy for most people, but they don’t let that stop them from dancing in the streets when there’s a convite or setting off firecrackers to ring in the new year, show pride in a parade or simply celebrate someone’s birth.

While bombas, or firecrackers, are heard throughout the year, the last week of December is particularly rife with them.

The bombas are just as much of our Christmas and New Year’s traditions as my more Canadian takes on the holidays. It’s been years of figuring out exactly how to blend our two cultures to create holiday traditions that are perfect for our particular family.


Children squeal as they light volcancitos and dance away to watch the shower of sparks fly up, older kids set off the little boxes that shoot whistling fire darts into the sky and even babies clap their hands in glee when their parents light the sticks that shoot balls of glowing flames in ever-increasing arcs. It’s part of life here and, I have to admit, a fun part.

The older boys are now at the age that they want to light their own firecrackers, so we’ve selected the safer options for them, stressing the need to be careful and safety techniques. Dominic helps, standing off to the side and yelling advice like, “GET BACK!” or “Careful! You could die!”

Here are a few of our other mixed up traditions:

Guatemalan                                                                    Canadian

Eating tamales at midnight on the 24th                           Turkey dinner on the 25th

Exchanging gifts at midnight                                           Opening PJs on the 24th

Opening gifts on the 25th

Setting off firecrackers for New Year                              Watching movies and eating

Hugging everyone at midnight                                         Making New Year’s resolutions

Something I never really thought about when we started our family, was the fact that so many traditions would be so deeply ingrained in both of us. While Irving tends not to worry too much about holidays (he leaves that to me), he has specific things that he feels ought to be observed.

He would never have Christmas without his bombas to set off, for example. And it just isn’t Christmas without tamales and hot chocolate at midnight. For me, the turkey dinner is a must! And setting out a buffet for New Year’s Eve is something my mother still does and did every year that I can remember, so I feel that it’s a vital part of the holiday. Sometimes, it’s hard to understand the importance of a holiday tradition when you haven’t grown up with it, but we both have worked to make it happen for our sons.

New Year's Eve spread

This year, we were rewarded by the boys’ anticipation of most of our traditions. It was awesome to hear them talking as we decorated the tree, explaining Polar Express night to Dominic and recalling past years. They were excited about the New Year’s Eve buffet and bombas long before Christmas even came along.

What are some of your holiday traditions?


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