Christmas Tamales - Tico style

Bring a taste of Costa Rican holiday cheer to your table with the beloved tradition of making tamales during Christmas

4/11/20233 min read

a plate of fo Christmas is a time of celebration and tradin a table with a cup of coffee
a plate of fo Christmas is a time of celebration and tradin a table with a cup of coffee

Christmas Tamales - Tico Style

As the holiday season approached, I could feel the excitement building in the air. The anticipation of Christmas was not just about the presents or the decorations; it was also about the mouthwatering aroma of tamales that would fill our home. In our cozy kitchen at 602 East 49th Street, my Tia Julie, who held a special place in my heart as a second grandma, took me under her wing and taught me the art of making tamales.

I watched with wonder as Tia Julie expertly mixed the masa, a dough made from corn, with chicken broth, lard, and salt. She patiently showed me how to knead the mixture until it became soft and pliable, ready to be spread onto corn husks. Together, we prepared the filling, combining succulent pork, fresh vegetables, and an array of flavorful seasonings. It was a delicate dance of flavors and textures that came together harmoniously.

The kitchen at 602 East 49th Street became a hub of warmth and joy during tamale-making sessions. As the live fire crackled in the firepit outside, the tantalizing scent of tamales wafted through the air, beckoning family members to gather around. Laughter and conversation flowed freely as generations collided in one space. My beloved grandmother, Nena, and my mother joined us in this culinary adventure, their faces glowing with nostalgia as they shared stories of their own childhoods in Costa Rica and the cherished memories of making tamales with their loved ones.

As we worked side by side, spreading masa on each corn husk and carefully spooning the flavorful filling into its center, I felt an unbreakable bond forming between us. Making tamales was more than just following a recipe; it was an act of love, a way to connect with our heritage and honor the generations that came before us.

Finally, after hours of anticipation, the tamales were ready. We gathered around the table, our mouths watering in anticipation of the feast before us. With eager hands, we unwrapped each tamale, revealing the steaming gift hidden within. As we savored each bite, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by gratitude for these cherished moments spent with my family. The simple act of making tamales brought us together, weaving a tapestry of shared stories and lasting memories. It was a reminder that traditions hold immense power - they can transcend time and connect us to our roots.

So, as Christmas approaches once again, I eagerly await the familiar aroma of tamales filling our home. And as we gather around the fire pit, the live fire crackling under the starry night sky, I know that this age The tamale feast was a time for laughter, conversation, and connection. And even though we were far from our homeland, we felt the warmth and love of our Costa Rican culture in every bite.

After eating, the celebration continued with music and dancing. My Tio Mario would bring out the drums and everyone would dance to reggae, soca, merengue, and salsa. Tio Willie had his signature dance moves, and Tia Conchi would direct the festivities, while Tia Yvonne was the life of the party. The rhythm of the drums would fill the air as we danced, our feet stomping and our hips swaying.

As the night wore on, the family party would continue, with more food and drinks, more music and dancing, and more laughter and conversation. And although the tamales were the centerpiece of the celebration, it was the sense of community and togetherness that truly made the holiday season special.

Tamales are more than just a delicious meal - they are a symbol of community, togetherness, and tradition. And for me and my family, they will always hold a special place in our hearts and our holiday celebrations.