Noche Buena is here and all I can think of are the traditions we do every year. Just like Thanksgiving, Noche Buena is a time for my family to come together and celebrate. We have a very large dinner -- equipped with penil, arroz con gandules, pasteles, and abuela's famous potato salad (or enslada de papa).
Noche Buena is another word for Christmas Eve, but certain traditions are celebrated on this day. Different families celebrate this day differently. My Puerto Rican family celebrates it with food, dance, and family. We typically do not open gifts at the midnight that welcome Christmas, but we have a couple of times before when we were with extended family. Usually we put the kids to bed early. My uncle drinks the milk and eats the cookies and then begins the hushed task of moving Christmas gifts from the closets to under the Christmas tree.
Before we put the kids to bed on Noche Buena, we track Santa Claus on our apps.
"He's in India right now!"
"Oh, look at him make his way into Puerto Rico!"
"He traveled through Australia so fast!"
I remember one year, the youngest cousin asked me if I heard Santa come to the house. She asked me because I was sleeping on the couch that night. And with a big smile I said, "I heard him! I heard the bells, and I heard him drink the milk and eat the cookies. I heard ho-ho-ho escape him. But I did not dare to open my eyes. I stood still and made believe I was sleeping the entire time!"
Her sleepy daze changed into a squealing excitement. It's little moments like those that makes me feel so grateful for the holidays, and most importantly..my family. Unfortunately, I will not be with my family for the Christmas holiday, but I am certainly counting all the blessings I've had this year thus far. For everyone celebrating Noche Buena, I wish you the best one yet.