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Mexican Holiday Traditions Connect a Tukwila Family to their Roots

In the Chavez-Diaz family, Christmas focuses on Mexican traditions.


This month we highlight the winter holiday traditions of families in our community. To find more stories about how families celebrate go here.


For Martha Diaz, her family’s Christmas celebrations are mostly drawn from her Mexican heritage and Catholic traditions, peppered here and there with hints of American culture.

Martha moved to the U.S. from Guadalajara when she was 12 and now lives in Tukwila. Her immediate family includes her husband, Ernesto Chavez, and their children, Christian Chavez, 21, and 2-year-old twins, Julian and Gabriel Chavez.

Her family puts up a Christmas tree, but underneath it is the Nativity scene her mother gave her when she first became a mother. The children wake Christmas morning and open gifts — though they’re not from a jolly old elf. 

“We don’t do Santa Claus,” Martha says. “We ask baby Jesus for our gifts.”

The festivities start in mid-December with Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, which celebrates an event hundreds of years ago when a man named Juan Diego reported seeing visions of the Virgin Mary near Mexico City. Families will dress in traditional clothing, with women and girls braiding their hair with colorful ribbons and flowers, and wearing a scarf-like shawl called a rebozo

Some churches will hold nighttime services with dancers and mariachi performers. Congregants will arrive in the evening and stay until morning, singing and praying. 

For Christmas Eve, her family will perform a posada, in which they re-enact Joseph and Mary’s search for lodging in Bethlehem. If her sister is hosting the dinner, they’ll sing carols and songs outside her house, until the last verse of a special posada song when they’re invited inside. 

“It’s singing back and forth until everyone is in,” Martha says. 

Dinner features traditional Mexican foods such as pozole, a hominy-based soup, and buñuelos, a fried, crunchy pastry similar to elephant ears. 

After Christmas is Three Kings’ Day, which includes baking a ringed loaf of sweet bread called a Rosca de Reyes in which a toy baby Jesus is hidden. Whomever gets the piece with the baby has to host a party for the others, typically serving tamales. 

“It’s an ongoing holiday,” Martha says. But all of the work is worth it “to make sure my children grow up and see these traditions and maintain it in my family.”

This month we highlight the winter holiday traditions of families in our community. To find more stories about how families celebrate go here.

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