For many who regularly take part in the holiday season, Christmas traditions are strongly tied to religious beliefs and practices. The ways in which the customs around the holiday season are carried out often deeply rooted in cultural rituals and they often vary from family to family. For my Puerto Rican family, the holiday season is drawn out well past the first of January when radio stations reel back on the jingles and Mariah Carey classics. For us, the Twelve Days Of Christmas sales or songs we know of don’t relate to the days leading up to December 25, but rather the twelve days in between Christmas Day and January 6 The Epiphany, a biblical day that marks the final leg of the Three Wise Men’s journey to deliver gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus Christ.
Día De Los Reyes has always been an especially important day for my family. The fact that “reyes” is my mother’s maiden name has only made the day a little sweeter.
A more popular holiday back on the island, my abuela and abuelo Reyes brought their traditions to the mainland with them in the 1950s.
On the evening of January 5, each member of my family from grandfather to my youngest sobrino pull out cardboard shoe and clothing boxes (all marked with our names, drawn on and decorated over the years with crayons, markers, and glitter pens) to take part in a tradition that we hold dear in our hearts. After we’ve filled the boxes with snacks like carrots, lettuce, and sometimes grass for the Three Kings’ camels to munch on as they pass through our town we stick the boxes under our beds. Finally, just as we would with Santa Claus, we write the Three Kings–Los Reyes–a handwritten note wishing them safe travels as the journey to see the baby Jesus hoping that as they did with him on that first Epiphany, they’ll leave a small gift or token of some sort under our boxes.
Dia De Los Reyes functions similarly to Christmas Eve in my family. We all wake up and check under our boxes to see if we were good enough this year to receive any gifts. We’d go to mass together, where as kids we’d hope that maybe Los Reyes stayed in town with their camels long enough that day to be at the church community center to pose for photos. We would visit family and eat pernil and arroz con gandules, dishes reserved for celebrations and holidays.
As I got older I went to mass only sometimes and stopped looking to get my photos with Los Reyes.
I never stopped checking my box for gifts though, or remembering each rey by the names older relatives taught me to write in my letters: Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar. As an adult I focused on new ways to celebrate “being a king,” as my family would say, and took on the role of expert coquito maker.
When I started dating and began wanting to bring boyfriends home for the holidays, part of my new role during the holiday season also unintentionally became one of both gatekeeper and teacher of my Puerto Rican culture. As a sophomore in college, I brought my then boyfriend home for December for the first time. In my household, Noche Buena, Christmas Day, New Years Day, New Year’s Eve, and Dia De Los Reyes were all days set aside for family, exclusively. I knew not to ask for exceptions, and in the past had willfully or grudgingly passed up holiday and New Years parties to honor the expectation of being en familia.
But in my twenties I badly started to yearn for my first New Years kiss and wanted, even more, to share part of my twelve days of Christmas with somebody who mattered to me.
My parents, on the other hand, were hesitant. Dia De Los Reyes was about Los Reyes, as in my family.
My boyfriend was someone they saw a few times a year and knew of only from phone calls, letters, texts, and video chats. Someone so unfamiliar certainly wasn’t considered family, and moreover someone who wasn’t Latino couldn’t possibly understand the sanctity of the day we’d honored so lovingly all our lives.
Most concerning of all, Dia De Los Reyes is also known among some circles as “the poor man’s Christmas,” my grandparents’ explanation being that back in the days of Jesus, being a king didn’t mean wealth like it means today. It meant that the giftschildren and observers receive in their boxes today are small, like a $10 gift card, socks, some mittens, or maybe candy. The last thing my family needed was for some guy they didn’t know to reach into an old shoebox of all things, pull out socks, and think we were cheap. With some convincing and a little grumbling, my family allowed me to write my boyfriend’s name on a box, fill it with lettuce and put it under my bed on January 5.
That night as I lay in bed, I did feel nervous knowing that I was bringing somebody into such a special part of my life that no one had ever seen before outside of my parents. Earlier in the day, I made sure to explain to him how seriously my family took our family only traditions, and how it wasn’t just about the religious holiday but the namesake that ties us to one another. I felt silly as I highlighted decorating beat-up boxes as one of my favorite traditions, something I hadn’t ever admitted out loud. Quiet and reserved, he listened to my stories but didn’t ask any questions.
In the morning, I still had my family only morning mass and our opening of gifts, but later that day my boyfriend was invited over for pasteles, coquito, and the checking of his first and only Three Kings Day box.
My parents observed with critical eyes as he went through the motions of our traditions, seeming charmed by the gifts of a hat and gloves left resting on top of torn up shreds of lettuce, proof that Los Reyes had come through our house. As he followed our lead I sat hoping that by participating in the events himself, he might better understand where my love for my culture comes from, or maybe even briefly feel the same sense of childhood joy I do on that day each year. Admittedly, it was an awkward day for everyone involved and not filled with all the magic I had hoped for. Nonetheless, I still felt proud of myself for being able to break down a barrier that had long existed between myself and not only romantic connections but a friend, too.
I wanted the opportunity to show those outside of my family the part of my identity that I hadn’t always made transparent in my daily life, even if that meant that they didn’t understand or wouldn’t “get it” at first.
Even though the person who got to take the test run of my family only traditions and I aren’t together anymore, a few years ago he broke the mold for being able to bring others into a part of my life I was using to shutting so many close to me out of.n Maybe he did think that of us, our gifts, or the day we celebrate as cheap, but after the fact I, didn’t care. In the years that have followed, what has mattered most to me has been that I could start sharing Reyes, this name that laid down the foundation to who I am before I was ever born, and all the nuances that come with it with those I want to know me better.
This Dia De Los Reyes will be one of a few Reyes family festivities that my current boyfriend will be participating in, and another year where my family pulls out his box and welcomes his extra cheer into our holidays. While he’s still learning about my roots, I’m still learning that I can take these moments and use them to bring myself closer to my culture and my loved ones.
Oh, the holidays! It is a time to enjoy the company of family and friends, eat como si no hubiera consecuencias, sleep late and watch classic Christmas movies. Undoubtedly, one of these iconic films is Home Alone (your abuelita might know it as Mi pobre angelito, which means My Poor Little Angel, as it was weirdly titled in Spanish!), and of course its sequel, which takes place in the very Christmasy New York City.
These two movies are a common fixture in the holiday entertainment menu, and it is common for public broadcasters worldwide to air them every year. Well, Canada’s public broadcaster just aired it, as it has done since 2014, but this year was different as their programming choice triggered the far-right’s anger and Donald Trump’s ego.
Yes, there is a Donald J Trump cameo in Home Alone 2, and the reason will definitely not surprise you (spoiler alert, it has to do with Trump’s legendary ego.)
The scene sees the little rascal ask for directions to a middle-aged man in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel in New York. That man turns out to be no other than Donald J Trump, who was then a famous and controversial real estate mogul and owner of the hotel. Trump tells Kevin just a simple phrase: “down the hall and to the left.”
The story goes that Trump had one condition for director Chris Columbus if he wished to shoot the sequel to his surprisingly hit movie: the now President of the United States would have to have a brief appearance in the film. Back then in 1992 no one would have imagined that Trump would years later hold the most powerful political position in the world. Las vueltas que da la vida.
Well, in a recent broadcast the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) cut the Trump cameo completely. And, oh yes, people did notice. Oh, Canada!
The public broadcaster aired the movie as part of its Christmas season. There was a change that people noticed, commented upon and got Trump’s conservative base riled up. The CBC cut the scene depicting the interaction between Trump and Kevin. This led to anger from Trump’s son, Donald Jr, who said: “”Pathetic: Canada’s CBC under fire when Trump’s cameo in ‘Home Alone 2’ disappears from Christmas broadcast.”
The broadcaster explained that they had axed over 8 minutes of the film in total, including the now infamous scene, to be able to include commercials. This is a reasonable explanation and a common practice by broadcasters. Added to this, the scene does not really move the plot forward at all and to be honest stands out like a sore thumb in the narrative. But we all know by now that Trump’s base does not always listen to reason. It seems that the far-right media is fishing for content to support their theories that the left and the entertainment industry at large are colluded.
As stated by The Guardian: “The film aired without Trump’s cameo on CBC earlier this month, but the edit was later picked up by right-wing news outlets, sparking fury among the president’s supporters.”
And, of course, Trump took to Twitter to complain.
Yes, we are not kidding. This further fed the fire of the far-right, as he retweeted an article that called this move, which as we said is common practice by broadcasters, “censorship.”
Now, it is not as if Trump had spoken about politics or race or anything important. Unless he was revealing secret Marxist tendencies by saying “down the hall and to the left”? Is “to the left” a cryptic message? Nah, we are not going all X-Files on you, we are just kidding.
The explanation is much more simple, as reiterated by the CBC in their website: “The scene with Donald Trump was one of several that were cut from the movie as none of them were integral to the plot. These edits were done in 2014, when we first acquired the film and before Mr Trump was elected president”. So no tres pies en el gato there, Mr President.
And Trump even had a go at Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada!
He blamed, of all people, the Prime Minister of Canada, with whom he shares an roller coaster of a political relationship. He tweeted: “I guess Justin T doesn’t much like my making him pay up on NATO or Trade!”. What, really? Well, one thing we can’t deny is that Trump is masterful when it comes to making everything about himself and talking politics even at the slightest alleged provocation. Ver para creer.
Share this story with all of your friends by tapping our little share buttons below!