Guest Author - Rebecca M. Cuevas De Caissie
The Hispanic American Christmas is in some ways very similar to that of the old countries from whence we came. Yet in so many other way we differ from the our forefathers. The traditional Christmas in most countries is a very religious time and deeply rooted in the Catholic faith as so many Hispanics tend to be Catholic in religion. Granted that this is a situation that has been changing recently, the influence of the Catholic faith is so strong that is truly embedded in many of the ways in which Hispanics see themselves and in the very fabric of our culture.
The Christmas season begins, for Hispanics at the same time as it does for most other Catholics, with the day of Advent and lasts through the day which celebrates the baptism of Jesus. Unlike our counterparts from other cultures, many Hispanic families still hold very strongly to this way of celebrating the holiday season. Although the festivities still continue, the focus remains very much on the reason for the entire season and the progression to the end times. Unlike those who also share this devout following of the faith in which we were raised, there is much celebrating and merry making within the Hispanic family.
As I have traveled I have witnessed that many other Catholic ceremonies seem to lack the joy and celebration that the Hispanic Catholic Church as well as other Hispanic churches seem to embody. The mass in a Hispanic Church is lively and joyful and one leaves feeling elated and uplifted. There is a joy in going to the church as well as a reverence that makes everyone joyful, which is readily seen in the smiling faces and heard in the music, which is sung loudly and with uplifted voices. Since I have begun traveling the continent I have longed to return to a Hispanic Catholic Church once again and partake of that joy.
This joy is what carries the family along as they celebrate not just the day of Christmas but the entire season. There are many days of celebration, beginning with the day of Advent.
In the Hispanic Family, Advent kick starts the season, and as with any celebration, in the Hispanic family there is sure to be much merry making, good food and family.
So how do we Hispanics celebrate Advent? Letís find out.
Advent: not capitalized : a coming into being or use: the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting:
So it is with the fourth Sunday before Christmas, like the season of Easter, we begin to prepare ourselves for the day which we recognize and celebrate the Birth of Jesus. In this time family begins preparing and celebrating the time of family as well. Every Sunday is a time for family in the Hispanic Culture. For times like these even more so. Growing up we never had the traditional wreath in our homes. There are many reasons why this is so. Just like celebrating the day of the dead does not take place in many home of those who are not from the region in which these traditions originally came from. In this Hispanic Church these days are celebrated with even the bat of an eye, where as in other churches it might raise some questions.
Some say Advent originally hails from the German traditions as does the Advent Calendar. This holiday refers to the 24 days leading up to Christmas Eve originally. The practice of advent was celebrated primarily in the German-speaking areas of Europe and especially in the protestant German areas. The Advent wreath has origins deeply rooted in Pre-Christian Germanic times. Germans would gather around wreaths of evergreens and light candles in hopes of the brighter times of spring coming ahead during the darkest months of winter. Though not stated in the body of informations found during my research, it appears that this tradition may be polytheistic in origin and though there has been little record of the faith and beliefs of these ancient people in encyclopedias, I am sure they had beliefs and rituals that were sacred and holy to them, pre-christendom, just as did the ancient peoples of now Latin America.
In 567, the second Council of Tours had enjoined the monks to fast from the beginning of December till Christmas. This practice of penance soon extended to the whole forty days, even for the laity: and it was commonly called St. Martin's Lent. This recording leaves many to believe that this season might find itís origins in other regions.
What I do know is that it is a holiday season that though celebrated by the Catholic church, has not influenced the Hispanic American Home to the degree that other holidays have. The reasons might be the basis of the origin as well as the fact that even the Spaniardís have not been as strongly influenced by the holiday. As Spain was the carriers of this faith into the Hispanic areas of the New World, it then seems to reason that this custom would not have taken hold in the Latin American World.
Many Latin American Countries have celebrations of their own which are not celebrated by the rest of the Catholic world, or by the world in general, though sanctioned or accommodated by the Catholic church, so it seems to reason that Advent would not be celebrated in the same manner as tradition would dictate. For this reason, this holiday and itís customs remain very much a celebration held at the church and the family joins together after these masses and shares meals and family time.
As for me and my family, we have not adopted the use of the wreath in our house either. It is never as touching or as warming as the times we spend as a family sharing meals after mass, especially the Christmas seasonís mass, when we know we can count on coming together as a family sharing our faith, culture and time with those we love laughing and celebrating yet another season of giving. You can see the circle of the wreath living in our homes, life continuing one generation to the next. And life goes on, hand in hand we move forward towards Christmas Day.
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Lamentations of the Caves By Rebecca Cuevas De Caissie