Nicky Nieves poses for a portrait during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympics shoot on Nov. 20, 2019 in West Hollywood, Calif.
I love getting to share my family’s holiday traditions. We have about four things that are a staple in my household and maybe could become a staple in yours! Sit back, relax and allow me to paint a picture of the different things that make up a Nieves holiday season.
December 24 – Noche Buena
It is December 24, 11:30 p.m. Many people might not be aware, but as a Puerto Rican, Christmas is mainly celebrated on Noche Buena or Dec. 24. Let me set the scene for my family’s celebration.
Salsa and merengue hits blare on my speaker while my family dances around in the living room. My mom records everything on Facebook live, and we occasionally look over to her phone to greet some of the family members that we are told are watching. My grandma busts a move with her walker, and my grandfather decides to sit and play the congas along to the Latin beat.
The clock strikes midnight, and it’s time to open the gifts! Each family member gets their turn as the rest of the family watches. First my mom opens her gifts, then dad, grandfather, grandmother and oldest niece. I open mine last. I love watching the look of happiness on everyone’s face as they open their gifts, especially when they receive gifts that they least expected.
The gifts don’t stop there. Once everyone is done, I pass around the hat with the numbers, which will represent everyone’s turn in white elephant. Some gifts are better than others, including different types of gifts cards or something as simple as a foam roller. Nevertheless, we’re all dying laughing at my grandmother’s unwavering attempt to steal any gift my mother gets.
Holiday Food – Pastele
Another key part of my family’s holiday traditions include a traditional food called pastele. Making this meal is a long process, but it’s all worth it when I taste the yumminess.
I think back to just a week ago when my family and I all helped in the process to make these. My mom and dad went to the bodega, a Latino grocery store, and purchased a box of green plantains. My dad stripped the peel off the bananas, and he and I use graters to grind the banana down to a dough.