Seattle's Child

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family Christmas

The Wooding Family Photo by Joshua Huston

Card contest 2021: First tamales and empanadas, then the slopes!

Texas and Northwest traditions combine for a magical holiday celebration.

Holiday Card Contest 2021: Melinda Wooding grew up in Texas. Christmas traditions in her large Mexican-American family revolved around food and get-togethers. She remembers with fondness the anticipation of the holiday season – and large gatherings in noisy kitchens, with everyone preparing meals together. 

Everyone pitched in. “Even the little kids got involved rolling the dough,” Melinda recalls. The highlight was always Christmas Eve: Everyone came together to form an assembly line in order to create the tamales and empanadas to be enjoyed the following day. Pumpkin empanadas with piloncillo (unrefined pure cane sugar) and cinnamon sticks have always been her favorite.

She met her husband Peter in Idaho, and the couple settled near his family in Seattle. 

They are now a family of five and their Christmas traditions have grown alongside their children, Nolan, Lily and Eli. They trek up to Snoqualmie to cut down their own Christmas tree. They invite family friends over for a winter bonfire and treats.

Peter’s contribution to the holiday festivities has been skiing: The family alternates between going up to Crystal Mountain and over to Sun Valley, Idaho. Everyone hits the slopes on Christmas Day, avoiding long lines at the lifts and enjoying time together. For the Woodings, it’s powder over presents.

Whether they wake up at home or in Idaho on December 25th, Melinda makes sure that tamales and empanadas are still a big part of the day. It’s her way of connecting the kids to their heritage and re-creating a little bit of her Texas childhood right here in the Pacific Northwest.

The Woodings were photographed as part of Seattle’s Child’s 2021 Holiday Card Contest.

See the other Holiday Card Contest winners in the November/December 2021 issue and online!

Nov/Dec cover teaser

New beginnings and new traditions: Two grandmothers are looking ahead to a happy season of new experiences for their toddler.

They’re blended — and bonding: New family celebrates goal-setting, aiming at making the world a better place for all.

Sharing time-honored celebrations: They’re combining traditions from Bolivia and Burien, and they’re awaiting a fourth family member.

A happy, high-energy holiday season: This family has hustle — and lots to do! — this time of year, but they still find a way to be together.

How other local families like to celebrate:

Vashon family created its own holiday inspired by — no kidding — Mr. T

Meet Menorasaurus Rex: Renton family puts creative spin on Hanukkah

Our holiday traditions: Mixing up old and new customs

A Christmas Eve present that never surprises

Formerly homeless family happy to have a home for the holidays

Seattle family honors Sikh traditions while celebrating the winter holidays

How we celebrate: Holidays are extra sweet for foster-care advocates


About the Author

Nils Dahlgren

Nils Dahlgren is a freelance writer and father of three based in Seattle. He also blogs at