A few years ago we spent Christmas in Florida with my parents and extended family. My family is Colombian and, as a first generation American, I enjoyed growing-up with one especially neat Colombian Christmas tradition: the novena.
The novena is a Catholic tradition. A set of nine prayers, one for each day starting the 15th of December until Christmas Eve. Every year the prayers are the same, each one celebrating a different character in the story of Jesus’ birth. When the prayer is over the group assembled breaks into phase two, singing typical Colombia Christmas carols. In recent years, we’ve thrown in some American carols too. It can be a small gathering of immediate family, or an big get together. The novena is not fancy, though I suppose it can be. A simple rented-out party space for a larger gathering will normally suffice.
A proper Colombian novena party usually includes an medium to large nativity scene that kids are instantly drawn to.
And typical Colombian foods like empanadas, and (evidently) not so typical foods, like mozzarella sticks.
My favorite part about novena parties is that everyone is invited to participate. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles dance alongside teenagers and little kids. NB decides to be the first one out on the dance floor, though this about him has changed in recent years.
While Penny and I dance together off to the side.
But like many traditions from the immigrant generation, the novena has not lived on with my nuclear family. For one thing it’s all in Spanish, and neither my kids nor my husband speak it. Also, the novena is best observed in a community of people who create improvised dance halls by lining the walls of their living rooms or rented out party halls with fold-out chairs. So we enjoy the old traditions when we visit Florida, bring home bits and pieces, and create our own traditions.
Hope you have fun celebrating old traditions and creating new ones this holiday season.