Happy New Year


El Ángel de la Victoria

I want to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year! ¡Próspero Año Nuevo! I was too busy to write this post on New Year’s Day because I celebrated in Mexico City. This was the only the second time I celebrated New Year’s Eve in Mexico. The first time was way back in 1965, but all I really remember is breaking a piñata with my cousins. I do remember this New Year’s Eve, however.

We started with a few drinks on an empty stomach because dinner wasn’t served until after midnight! We watched celebrations from other cities on TV. When the countdown to the New Year started, we were all ready with a glass of apple cider, a glass of water, and twelve grapes. The tradition of eating twelve grapes began in 1909 in Spain and is now also followed in Mexico, Chile, and Argentina–Chile and Argentina eat raisins instead. No one is sure why we eat twelve grapes, but speculation is that it’s one for each month of the year or one for each toll of the bell at midnight. At the stroke of midnight, we ate the grapes to bring us good luck throughout the year. (I learned these interesting tidbits of information while watching TV before our New Year’s Eve celebration!) We had a toast with the glass of cider. Then we threw out the glass of water in the yard. The water represents the tears we will avoid throughout the rest of the year. Everyone danced in yard–including me, but not very well. Everyone took turns walking around the yard rolling a suitcase behind them. This was done with the hopes that they get to travel somewhere exotic on vacation during the next year.

I make no New Year’s resolutions this year since I never manage to keep them for very long anyway.

New Year’s Eve


Making tamales with TLC

I have many fond memories of New Year’s Eve beginning in my childhood when our entire family would go to my Uncle Simon’s and Aunt Mari’s house. The party always involved eating a lot of  Mexican food and real hard play among cousins. At midnight, everyone, I mean children, too, toasted with a glass of champagne. That was the only time of the year I drank alcohol–until I became an altar boy and my friend once talked me into taking a sip of altar wine before mass.  But I only indulged that once because I felt so guilty and sinful afterwards.

Once, we were in Mexico for New Year’s Eve and we celebrated by making tamales and eating them. In Chicago, my mother made the masa during the day and then made buñuelos at midnight as a way of ringing in the new year. I think that New Year’s Eve wasn’t as exciting once we stopped going to my aunt’s and uncle’s house. I don’t really remember too many of those later celebrations now. When I was married, I was content to stay home with my wife and son and watch the festivities in Chicago on TV. When I lived in Bridgeport, I used to take my oldest son to the attic window at midnight where we could see the fireworks downtown. When the twins were born, we moved farther away from downtown, so we could no longer see the fireworks from the window. But we watched them on TV, although not quite as dramatic.

Later, after my divorce, my Mexicana girlfriend decided that we would make tamales for New Year’s Eve. She bought a giant pot for the tamales and lots and lots of masa. We would make tamales together, just the two of us. Actually, I enjoyed making the tamales. In Mexico, I only got to watch the women of the family make the tamales; males weren’t allowed to touch the masa. My girlfriend showed me how to mix the meat into the masa and stuff the masa into the corn husk. She had made tamales a few times and actually knew what she was doing. We even made some sweet tamales with raisins. We had about six different kinds of tamales. We literally did this for at least two hours and the giant pot was still only half-full. However, she insisted that we fill the pot all the way to the top. We filled the pot at about 3:00 a.m. And I was exhausted! But wait! She put a penny at the bottom of the pot where there was boiling water to steam the tamales. The flame underneath had to be at just the right temperature and you could tell if the temperature was just right because the penny would keep making noise as the boiling water moved it. The only time I really saw tamales made was in Mexico as a boy, but my mother and aunts cooked the tamales over a bonfire. Well, I went to bed about 6:00 a.m. because I couldn’t stay awake anymore. She stayed up to keep adding water and ensuring that the tamales cooked properly. I didn’t realize they would involve so much work. She woke me up a few hours later when they were done. She had stayed up the whole time! We then ate the tamales and they were so delicious! We ate them later that day. And the next day, too. There were so many tamales that she put some in her fridge and froze the some in her freezer. And there were still some tamales leftover! So I took some home and put them in my freezer. We ate tamales until the Fourth of July! And we never got tired of them. We loved them!

¡Happy New Year! ¡Próspero Año Nuevo!

Please! No more tamales!