Friday, January 6, 2012

Passing on Traditions and Culture

Our sons are truly first generation mainlanders.  You wouldn't think that if you saw them, or heard them.  One is blond, green eyed and has a nice tan, the youngest has lite brown hair, brown eyes and tans even more beautifully than the first.  They look like pretty average Americans.  Truth is, their father, grandparents and so on all were not born here in the states but in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

In fact, when both of my in-laws were born in Puerto Rico it wasn't even a commonwealth.  That didn't happen until 1952. Both of them grew up in and around San Juan.  They met at college in 1968, graduated in 1970 and were married in December 1970.  In 1972 my husband came along.  He was born in San Juan and live there his first six months.  He grew up going to Puerto Rico frequently and enjoyed spending time there. 

My husband wants our sons to be familiar with Puerto Rico - he wants them to know that part of their heritage.  So, we travel back there every 1.5 years.  We take the boys to the beach where my husband went as a child, the snow cone cart, the sandwich shop, Old San Juan, the forts, our favorite restaurants and family hot spots.  We tell them stories of our trips there and of his childhood antics.  When in Puerto Rico we fully submerge our family in the Puertorican culture. We try to bring some of that culture and their traditions here to our home in Dallas.

On January 6 we celebrate the Three King's, or Day of Epiphany with our boys.  The youngest doesn't really understand only that the Three Kings bring him a present.  The older son completely understands that Three King's Day is the day the Three Kings found Baby Jesus.  They were told to find the new born baby and to return with his location.  They experienced a dream that they were to take gifts to Baby Jesus and so they did.

We celebrate Three King's Day starting on January 5th.  Our boys get a small box.  Fill it with grass for the Three King's camels as their offering to the Kings.  They then place it on the fireplace.  Some time during the night the Three King's come, feed their camels and leave the boys a little something.  The camels are very messy, dropping the grass on the floor, knocking the box over and have been know to bite the packages they leave for the boys.  In Puerto Rico the day is more of a community celebration.  We are apart of that extended community. 

What I love most about this is how our boys are experiencing a little bit of my husband's childhood and how it opens a dialog about Christ, Church and what that means to us.  The conversations have gotten deeper over the years as their questions have become less about what gift they got and more about what this means and how they should apply it to their lives.

We are headed back to Puerto Rico in late June.  We'll have the opportunity to celebrate the Eve of St. John's Day.  John the Baptist is the patron saint of the Island.  In face, the city of San Juan was named after him.  I have been there before on St. John's day, his day is an odd celebration of starting over.  There is generally big celebrations on the beach at night starting on June 23.   The tradition associated with that day is to walk backward into the ocean and fall back in the water 12 times at midnight on the beginning of the 24th.  This signifies a renewal.  In other parts of the world it is also know as Midsummer.  Our boys haven't experienced this holiday before, but I am willing to bet you - you will find my oldest son and I - in the water - at midnight - falling back  - 12 times. 

What non-traditional holidays do you celebrate and what do they mean to you?

Happy Pinning!

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