Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Holiday Edition, Part Two: Noche Buena.

This year there was a disruption in our Christmas family ritual. My inability to tolerate change -- along with its genetic source -- was revealed anew to me.

Is your family fucking nuts? Well yeah, mine too. "The holidays are a time for remembering."

The routine usually goes, we open our presents and then go to the house of the relative whose turn it is to host the Christmas dinner. We have some ham and some mashed potatoes. We do a halfhearted extended-family gift exchange and rehash whatever was talked about at Thanksgiving and then we go home. It's nice.

But this year my aunt, who is Cuban and also suddenly weirdly averse to hosting family meals despite her status as an awesome cook with a lovely home, threw a curve ball. She had agreed to have Christmas dinner, but then we got an e-mail: L. had decided to do something "a little different" this year and throw a Noche Buena, a Christmas Eve feast of pork and beans and rice and yucca.

"Great!" you say. "Did you have a good time?"

Baby didn't like it. What is this shit, I thought? It's Christmas. What do we do on the actual day now? We open our presents and then go... "Yeah, we had some Cuban food last night"?

My Mom and I spent enough time griping to each other about it that anyone looking at us would have understood immediately that it "wasn't about Christmas dinner." My dad grumbled a little, my brother took it maddeningly in stride and for my sister it was moot, since her family was already committed to her husband's side.

This felt very lonely. Didn't anyone understand that the sanctity of the experience was being interrupted? Didn't they understand that plans had been made based around Christmas Day dinner? That this was unorthodox, unplanned and uncool?

Despite the fact that the one-week notice of the date change was pretty much indefensible, especially given that my bf's flight was already set to come in on that night, in the end I decided to turn my holiday frown upside down. The yucca was garlic-tastic and suddenly I realized I didn't necessarily need to be spending Christmas with these people anyway. My Cuban aunt had scored a definitive coup in her bizarre two-year quest to avoid hosting most holiday-day dinners. Her husband, my dad's brother, said at the beginning of the dinner, "So, this is the first year that we have all had dinner on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas. Is everyone okay with that?"

My dad, inexplicably and amusingly, dug into his pork and said, "Sure. Who's complaining?"


  1. Anonymous4:49 PM

    tu estoy cubano!!!

  2. I got no sympathy 4 ya.

    Mainly because you sound just like my brother, for whom there is one kind of Christmas: the one he wants. Either at his home or the home of our parents. We used to spend odd-numbered years together, and so one year I invited everyone to my house. All hell broke loose. And due to Xmas 2003, my brother and I haven't spoken since. That said, the last two years have been the best of our relationship.

    So I'm glad you turned that frown upside down, because (a) people shouldn't complain when they're not the ones paying and doing all the work for the dinner/event in the first place; and (b) holidays are times for getting together and that entails some compromises. Otherwise, you're just being really, really selfish.

    I think we've all learned an important lesson here. This has been one Uncomfortable Moment we couldn't afford to miss.

  3. A.H., thanks for the tough love. You're absolutely right. It's about growing up.

    My brother had the best response, which was "That's cool about Noche Buena! The only question is, what do we do on Christmas Day?" In other words, positive reception, recognition of minor problem, problem-solving attitude.

    I'm slooooowly learning that the people who can roll with change are the ones who live longer.


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