For those of you who may not know this, for us Latinos, the Christmas festivities actually begin on Christmas Eve. In fact, here on the island, they started long before I got here. You can hear fireworks and rockets at night, and parties are organized long before the anticipated day of our Savior’s birth. (I am writing this from a Christian perspective. If you are not a Christian, please do not be offended. I wish you all the best and much peace, love and joy during your respective holidays.)
Christmas Eve is a very big deal in our family. It bears a special significance to us given the rumor that it was my grandfather’s birthday. ( I say “rumor” because estimates as to the actual day of his birth have varied– I like to believe it was on Christmas Eve.) To be honest, I don’t think he was certain of the exact date himself. My beloved Abuelito passed away three years ago after about a six-year battle with prostate cancer, and his presence is still very much alive in our family. It is a long history rich in traditions and memories that one cannot easily forget. His absence (and yet his presence) is particularly painful during this season. Abuelo Esteban was a teacher by trade, and a musician by passion. He played Spanish guitar, mandolin, and accordion, but whenever he picked up my violin, he managed to force some ungodly sounds from my delicate instrument. (One can’t be a virtuoso in everything!)
These memories are particularly bittersweet to me, as he is the only grandfather I have personally known, and he died when I was in my late teens.
So, this Christmas, in honor of his life and in honor of my family’s history, I hope to commemmorate these moments by sharing with you a little bit of my culture, my family.