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Growing up, December 12th in my household was a very important day. I would say that next Christmas, we probably anticipated the arrival of this day the most and inquite a big way. December 12th marks the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, and as a Mexicana from a Catholic family this was a very big deal to me and to those around me. I am hoping that my children will feel the same!
On this day Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated in a very special way, especially in Mexico, but increasingly in the United States too. If you grew up in Mexico or in a Hispanic Catholic family, chances are that you are very familiar with the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1531, the mother of Christ appeared to an Indian convert named Juan Diego with a very special message to the Bishop of Mexico City, leaving her portrait on Juan Diego's mantle (or tilma, in Spanish) as proof of her message to the Bishop. This image (pictured to the left) has become an important icon and is kept at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, the most visited shrine in the world. I most recently visited this shrine soon after college with my parents and found it to be such a moving and reflective place. Our Lady of Guadalupe was declared Patroness of Latin America in 1910 and in 1945 Pope Pius XII declared Her to be the Empress of all the Americas. You can learn more about this story here.
While December 12th is the main feast day dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, preparations begin 9 days pior with a novena, a special prayer devotion repeated on nine successive days. Each evening, believers gather at a church to pray the rosary and ask for her intercession with their prayers.
I have heard and read that in Mexico City as December 12th approaches, more and more pilgrims arrive at the Basilica each day, attending the novenas in her honor and many camping out in and around the Basilica! I hope that one day I can be there at the Basilica to celebrate, it's on my bucket list for sure! Then, on December 12th the main festivities are celebrated with las Mañanitas (the "Mexican Birthday Song"), typically at midnight or early in the morning and Mass. Mañanitas are Mexican songs that area traditionally sung to people early in the morning most often on their birthday, but they are also sung on other special occasions, like an anniversary or a seranade. They are traditionally sung to Our Lady of Guadalupe on her feast day, usually accompanied by a mariachi.
Our home parish will celebrate las mañanitas for Our Lady with a Mariachi at 5 a.m., followed by hot cocoa and pan dulce! As a matter of fact, as I write this my parents are in Mexico, attending a sunrise Mañanitas celebration in her honor. Mass is celebrated in the evening, followed by more delicious treats and a piñata for the kids.
I remember getting up so early, around 4:30 in the morning, on December 12th as a child. I would bundle up in my warmest clothes and head to the super early 5 a.m. Mañanita celebration with one of my parents. In the evening, our entire family would attend Mass, we would have to get there early because it was jam packed. Kids would be dressed in traditional Mexican clothing, sometimes adults too! People were excited, happy to be celebrating such a wonderful day. In addition to the song and prayers in her honor, roses are traditionally handed out to the faithful. Why? The rose is Our Lady's flower, having asked Juan Diego to bring roses to the Bishop wrapped in his mantle to help prove her message and will to him. When asked by the Bishop to shop him what he carried in his mantle, Juan Diego opened his mantel, the roses falling to the ground, and Our Lady's image on his mantle.
I lived in Mexico until I was 5 and celebrated this beautiful tradition every year. That's me in the picture on the left, dressed in traditional Mexican clothes on December 12th when I was 3 years old, as part of the procession. I appreciated that the tradition stayed with my family when we moved to Chicago and that it grew quite a bit in our church during my childhood. Now I have 4 kids and want to pass on celebrating this tradition to them. I plan on taking my two oldest to Spanish Mass tonight and enjoying the fiesta to follow, it will be beautiful.
How can you celebrate? By far the best way is to attend a Mass or Mañanita celebration on December 12th. Check local Catholic churches to see if they are hosting any special events on this day. In the past I have hosted an Our Lady of Guadalupe party for my kids and our friends, everyone loved it! Check out the pictures from the party.
How to Have an Our Lady of Guadalupe Party
- Ask parents to familiarize their children and themselves with the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe before the party.
- Set up a small shrine to Our Lady in the party area and ask guests to bring flowers to adorn the shrine. Any flowers are ok, but roses are more traditional. The shrine can be as simple or elaborate as you like, but a small table covered with nice tablecloth with an image Our Lady of Guadalupe centered on it would be perfect. You may want a few vases for your flowers as well on the table. Votive candles with an image of Our Lady are also very traditional and nice for your shrine. They can be found at many Mexican grocery stores, some chain grocery stores carry them in their Hispanic food section.
- Keep decorations simple, papel picado is a very traditional Mexican decoration and can be made out of tissue paper, this a great project that your kids can do ahead of time. There are several online vendors that carry an assortment of papel picado as well. Poinsettias are a native flower of Mexico and are very popular during the Christmas season, they add early holiday cheer to any party!
- Play Mexican music in the background. I really like Our Lady of the Guitar, it's a beautiful musical pilgrimage to Our Lady.
- Once your guests have arrived, read the story of our Lady of Guadalupe. I really enjoy the book The Lady of Guadalupe by Tomie de Paola. I also really like Our Lady of Guadalupe by Fransisco Serrano and Our Lady of Guadalupe in a Box.
- Next, have the guests line up for a procession, with their flowers. While singing the traditional Mañanitas they can bring their flowers up to the shrine. Click for the audio to Las Mañanitas.
- Once everyone has placed their flowers on the shrine, lead your guests in prayer. This can be as simple or elaborate as you like, but we simply had guests recite The Hail Mary in Spanish, which they were to learn ahead of time.
Dios te salve, Maria. Llena eres gracia: El Senor es contigo.
Bendita tu eres entre todas las mujeres. Y benito es el fruto de tu vientre: Jesus.
Santa Maria, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores, ahora y en hora nuestra muerte. Amen.
- We followed by showing the movie Juan Diego, Messenger of Guadalupe and with a craft. The crafts can be very simple, like printing out coloring pages of Our Lady. At our party I had children decorate their very own tilmas. I ironed on an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe onto each plain canvas apron and each child personlized it with their name and flowers, with fabric markers. One of my favorite crafts is this grotto kit for Our Lady.
- Serve a Mexican themed buffet style lunch. For our party I made enchiladas, rice and beans. I also served tacitos, a salad and chips with salsa.
- For dessert serve Mexican sweet bread, pan dulce, and Mexican hot chocolate.
- Finish with a pinata!
- We asked guests to bring a small for a local women's pregnancy counseling center. Guests donated baby items like diapers, wipes, and gently used clothes to help a great cause.
- This website has many wonderful suggestions on crafts that you can incorporate into your party, depending on age of those attending. You can find more suggestions on how to have a party in Our lady's honor here.
At Vidacoco, we always talk about the importance of passing down traditions to our children. The Christmas season is a wonderful time to practice sharing the beautiful customs and memories that we remember from our childhood or to make new ones with our families and friends.
It seems like the past few weeks, Christmas traditions have often been a topic of discussion among my friends, at mommy and me classes, and it keeps coming across online and television. It’s especially nice to hear about the many ways that this season is celebrated in the homes of those that I know, often combining new and older traditions.
Perhaps I find myself reflecting on traditions because I feel nostalgic about my Christmas childhood memories. My parents kept the focus on celebrating the birth of Christ and family, not so much on gifts to be given or received. During the Christmas season, we sometimes visited extended family in Mexico, but always made tamales, participated in the Posada novenas and ate pan dulce and drank traditional cinnamon spiced hot chocolate (Abuelita brand is now a household staple around here!). New traditions that my parents didn't grow up celebrating were added, like believing in Santa and putting up a Christmas tree. I don’t remember my parents stressing out about planning things to do or getting done during the Christmas season, they simply remembered their family traditions and added new ones, and they didn't spend much money doing so. Now that I have my own children, I am working on remembering that it's really the non-commercial aspect of the season that matters, but amidst the planning and preparations it's not always easy to do!
In an effort to teach my children about their Mexican heritage, I’m working on incorporating some of the traditional ways in which this Christmas season is celebrated in Mexico too. My favorite Christmas tradition is celebrating Las Posadas. They are a beautiful celebration of processions and parties starting December 16th and lasting for 9 consecutive days in anticipation of Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve. Posada literally means “lodging” in Spanish and they commemorate the journey that Mary and Joseph took from Nazareth to Bethlehem before Jesus’ birth on Christmas. Last year, my husband and I hosted are own Posada party and invited many our friends. For many of them, it was their first time at a Posada celebration.
My parents taught me to prepare for Christmas with the Posadas. Christmas arrived on Noche Buena, Christmas Eve on the 24th, traditionally celebrated with a large family meal and Misa de Gallo, or Midnight Mass. Traditionally in Mexico, the celebration continues with another large family gathering and meal on New Year's eve and once again gathering for the official end of the Christmas season with la Fiesta de los Reyes Magos (the Feast of the Three Kings or Epiphany) on January 6th. As a matter of fact, on the Eve of this feast, my siblings and I would, as tradition in Mexico, leave out our shoes (the biggest ones of course!) outside the front door in anticipation of the Three Kings paying our home a visit and leaving some treats behind in our shoes!
Growing up in a mostly Latino community on the Southside of Chicago, these Christmas traditions seemed normal to me. It was mostly at school that I learned about new traditions (the ones my husband celebrated), like the Advent wreath and calendar, baking cookies and Christmas stockings. They are now a part of my children's Christmas celebrations. Really, what I want from it is for my children to know the true meaning of this season, the birth of Christ, and to celebrate it with some of the wonderful traditions I remember, the new ones my husband and I are trying to create for our family and the ones they will want to add...
We would all love to buy gifts for our family and friends without considering (and sticking to) a budget, but alas, budgeting is a must.
After all, you don’t want to be paying for your Christmas indulgences well into the following year, but you don’t have to be a scrooge either. Here some easy tips to help you get something special for everyone on your “been good” list this year without going broke!
1Establish an Overall Budget
It is very important that you have an overall budget in place prior to beginning your Christmas shopping. This way, you are less likely to end up overspending and regretting any shopping debt. When considering your budget, keep these things in mind:
- How much did I spend last year? How did I feel about that amount? Was it just right, or do I need to adjust it?
- Consider what you already have that can be reused. Do you really need new decorations or can you simply update with a few key items? Perhaps you can even borrow something from a friend or family member!
- Make a complete list of everything you need to buy this season.
- Factor in the “extras” – the ribbon, gift tags, stocking stuffers, tape, greeting cards, and party supplies all add up!
- Make sure to leave a small safety net for unexpected expenses. It happens to even the best planners. This year I remembered as I frantically searched for my lights that I had indeed thrown them out last year because they had finally, after years of service, died - yikes!
- Try saving throughout the year so you don’t feel the financial burden of the season in a few short weeks or get tempted to use credit cards. Many people like to shop throughout the year too, buying gifts when they find a great deal.
- The smart folks over at Practicalmoneyskills.com suggest that you spend only 1.5% of you annual income on your Christmas budget. That means that if your family income is $40,000 year you can allocate $600 for your budget; with a $50,000 income, $750; with a $75,000 income, $1,125. That may work for some people and not for others; decide what is right for you and your family.
- Remember that the hard part is not in making your budget, but sticking to it!
2Make a Gift List, and Check It Twice
Decide whom you want or need to buy gifts for and how much you will spend on each person on your list, keeping your overall bottom line in mind. Without a gift list, we end up spending money on people we really don’t need to buy for or want to buy for – it’s ok to not buy everyone a gift.
- peat;">When deciding how much to spend on each person, use personal judgment, but stick to your pre-determined amount once out shopping.
- It’s ok to discuss gift expectations with family members and close friends. If you can’t or don’t want to spend as much as you have in past years on gifts, let those close to you know that you would like to scale back.
- This way you won’t find yourself giving a small gift to someone and feeling awkward that they gifted you something expensive.
- Instead of buying each child in your extended family a gift, consider buying the family one gift they can all enjoy, like a yearly membership to their local zoo or children’s museum. If the children are close in age, they may enjoy one larger gift to share, like a movie theater gift card.
- Keep non-family and friend gifts to a minimum. For your co-workers and some groups of friends, consider organizing a gift exchange with a price limit. Then you only have to get one gift instead of a few. If your co-workers are simply acquaintances, then make or pick up your favorite edible holiday treat to share with the group.
3Shop On Your Time
While some of us may enjoy the thrill of getting all our Christmas shopping done in one big mall trip, it’s wiser to spread your shopping over a period time.
- Consider that retail stores tend to hold sales on product categories. So, electronics may be cheaper one week versus home goods the following week. By spreading your shopping over time you can keep an eye put for great sales!
- Giving yourself more time to shop will allow you to take advantage of any layaway plans at many popular stores. You can skip using your credit card and make smaller cash or debit card payments for an item until it’s paid off and you can take it home.
- But don’t procrastinate! You will more stressed out, anxious and overspend it you do.
- It’s better to shop alone than with a group of people. There is no pressure to outdo each other on gifts purchased, you are on your own schedule and won’t be pressured to buy unnecessary gifts.
- It’s ok to shop AFTER Christmas. Are you going to see relatives or friends after Christmas? Then why not wait to hit the great after Christmas sales for their gifts? The Christmas season doesn’t necessarily end on the 25th; after all, in the Latino community it’s a common tradition to celebrate the season until The Feast of the Three Kings on January 6th! I usually pick a day after Christmas and head out to purchase a few more gifts - I LOVE extending this joyous season as much as possible.
4Leave The Plastic At Home
Make it your motto to not go into debt this Christmas season. It’s safe to say that the majority of us have been watching how much we spend more closely the past few years, but the Christmas season is an easy temptation to blow off budgets and say “just charge it.”
- Remember to use your credit card as least as possible or not all. You may regret that credit card bill come January!
- Use cash if you can to pay for gifts – it helps keep you on budget and reminds you how much you have actually spent. Spending $50 on a gift versus $100 when you use a credit feels almost the same, but if you pay with cash or your debit card you will notice the price difference immediately
- Try taking out ONLY the cash that you need for a shopping trip from the ATM. When it’s gone, you know that you’re done.
5Empower Yourself - Resist Impulse Buying
For many of us, this is one of the hardest things to do! Have a plan on what you want to buy before you hit the mall or your favorite store and stick to it. Remember a few rules:
- As cute as the cheap stocking stuffers at the check out counter may be, those purchases add up!
- Stores are designed so that you leave your hard earned money at the store, not in your wallet. Remind yourself that stores want you to buy that one extra and unplanned item that will add to your budget and their profit!
- Remember your budget for each person or item on our list and stick to it, no matter how much better a more expensive gift or item may seem.
6Give Warmly, Not Opulently
Think about how many Christmas gifts you’ve received that you didn’t use or even like. We can all benefit from the “less is more” motto when it comes to gift giving. Try these tips when planning your gift list:
- Gift Exchanges are great! If you can, make a no gifts for adults rule and just buy presents for the little believers. If you want to include adults, then try drawing names from a hat and then every adult can receive just one nice gift.
Do you have a talent or skill that you can share? Maybe you can offer your family member or friend an hour’s worth of your time/trade/talent.
- Encourage the teenagers in your life to give of their talents and time too – maybe they can mow their grandparents or neighbor’s lawn? Can they babysit for a new mom in the family that lives nearby or offer to run some errands for an older family member?
- DIY gifts are great. How about making a DVD with your favorite Christmas music? All you need are the appropriate blank CDs, labels and downloaded music. One year my daughters and I made small gift packages of handmade soaps and stationary. The total cost for the materials for all 10 gifts, including wrapping supplies, was less than $80. This year my kids are all making homemade Christmas Organic Salt Dough Ornaments - they are super cute and easy! The tutorial can be found at The Bombshell Mommy. These types of gifts are great for teachers, car pool friends and even colleagues.
7Keep Décor Simple
While many of us would love for our homes to look like the picture perfect decorated ones in magazines this Christmas season, remember that you can keep your decorations simple and tasteful without spending a fortune. Try a few of our tips:
- A simple pinecone arrangement spray painted with very inexpensive gold paint from the craft store and arranged on a mantle is perfect or use it as stylish centerpiece.
- A metallic sash tied around your chairs with simple accent accessories on your dining room table makes for a chic and lovely look.
- Don’t forget the kids - they tend to love doing arts and crafts and that’s a great and simple way to add seasonal flare to your home.
- After the Christmas season, store your decorative items for next year in recycled plastic containers over cardboard boxes. They will help your decorations safe and you won’t have to buy more decorations next year.
8Finally, Avoid Easy Money Drainers
- Just say “no thank you” when the cashier asks you “Would you like to save an extra x% today by signing up for our store credit card?” Store credit cards usually have higher rates than other credit cards and they all tend to have strict late fees.
- Remember to be Internet savvy, compare prices and look for coupons on sites like Bizrate and CouponCabin. A simple Google search for those “promo codes” at checkout time can save you a few dollars.
- Most online orders will tag on extra shipping charges after a certain date, so place your order accordingly.
- Before you place your Christmas card order, think about how many you are ordering. Do you really that many? Take some time to organize and update your address list this season so you know how many cards to buy, most of us buy too many and they end up getting tossed in the garage. Choose standard-sized envelopes for your cards, the unique sizes will require extra postage.
- Business related clients and eco-conscious friends might appreciate an e-card rather than a card in the mail.
- Always check if a store offers complimentary gift-wrapping, you’ll be surprised how much you can save!
Honestly, I haven’t been in a rush to potty train my youngest son, Anthony, who is 2 years old today. I felt the pressure to potty train his older siblings much more than I have with him, especially with my oldest. I came to the conclusion that just letting my kids start potty training when several of the “readiness” signs are present is a better approach than starting the process when I want/need them to be ready. They are more willing to potty train and I am less stressed about the whole process.
Up until a few weeks ago, Anthony was only interested in doing this when he went into the bathroom - getting the toilet paper and, well, making a big mess!
I am also currently pregnant with my 5th child and this seemed to complicate Anthony’s potty training a bit. Part of me wanted to wait on the potty training process until after the baby was born. Honestly, up until a few weeks ago, he really had no interested in wanting to use the bathroom. We even received an awesome celebratory package from our friends at Pull-Ups. I hoped that it would encourage him to start the potty training process. It came with his own potty training seat and set of Pull Up. The package also included a potty training progress chart, coloring sheets, stickers and a few neat items for helping him celebrate potty training milestones. However, what he really wanted to do was play with the potty training seat that came in the package and wear it around his head!
After participating in a teleconference with two child rearing experts as part of this campaign, I was more convinced than ever that we would start potty training when we was ready, not when I wanted or needed him to be. Then, a funny thing happened. In the course of a few weeks, he started showing all the signs of potty training readiness. He would tell me that his diaper was dirty and would bring me a new one! He wanted to follow his older brother (he is 4.5) into the bathroom and would say “me” while pointing to the toilet. I decided it was time.
I pulled out the awesome package he received from Pull-Ups and this time he was super interested in not just playing with all the neat items, but USING them.
We are a few days into the potty training process and so far it’s been going ok. We have had about a 50% success rate…which is not great, but this kid LOVES his potty seat and his reward system. The Pull Ups Big Kid App is one of the tools that has been helping him stay motivated and it keeps me on top of this task (it’s easy to lower it's priority when you have 4 other young children in the house who also need you). I love it! Check out all the neat features in the snapshot below! I love the countdown timers starring Disney’s Lighting McQueen and Minnie Mouse - they help me know when it’s time to remind my son to take a Potty Break. I tend to forgot! Plenty of helpful hints and an entire library of expert articles to help keep you
GIVEAWAY! So what do you think of Anthony’s potty training gifts? Could they help your little one get started or encourage them with the potty training process? If so, enter to win a celebratory package from Pull-Ups in our GIVEAWAY!
You can enter on this link: a Rafflecopter giveaway
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