Making Tamales a Christmas Tradition: Why Every Family Should Eat Tamales on Christmas

Tamales at Christmas

As the holiday season approaches, many families are busy preparing for Christmas traditions, from caroling to decorating the tree. But have you ever considered making tamales a part of your family’s Christmas tradition? Tamales are a beloved dish in Mexican and Hispanic cultures, and their significance goes beyond just a delicious meal. Eating tamales at Christmas is a cultural tradition that brings families together and adds a special touch to the holiday season.

During this holiday season, take the time to gather with your loved ones and make tamales together. The process of tamale-making, or “tamalada”, is a fun and meaningful experience that provides a sense of togetherness and celebrates Mexican heritage. Whether you’re an expert tamale-maker or a first-time beginner, tamale time is a perfect moment to share stories, create memories, and enjoy delicious food.

In this article, we’ll explore the history and origins of tamales at Christmas, the significance of this dish as a symbol of celebration and togetherness, the process of tamale-making, and its cultural significance. We’ll also delve into personal stories of families passing down traditions and the nourishing and spiritual aspects of tamales. Here’s why we think tamales should be a part of every family’s Christmas tradition:

Key Takeaways:

  • Tamales are a beloved dish in Mexican and Hispanic cultures, and eating them at Christmas is a cultural tradition that brings families together.
  • Tamale-making, or “tamalada” is a fun and meaningful experience that provides a sense of togetherness and celebrates Mexican heritage.
  • In this article, we’ll explore the history and origins of tamales at Christmas, the significance of this dish as a symbol of celebration and togetherness.
  • We’ll also delve into personal stories of families passing down traditions and the nourishing and spiritual aspects of tamales.
  • Tamales should be a part of every family’s Christmas tradition because they bring joy, create memories, and celebrate cultural heritage.

The History and Origins of Tamales at Christmas

For pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures, particularly the Aztecs, the tamale was a staple food that provided a portable and nutritious meal for hunters, soldiers, and travelers. Maize (corn) was their main crop, and they used it to create a variety of dishes, including tamales.

The tamale-making process was passed down through generations, and it became a central feature of Mesoamerican cuisine. Initially, tamales were filled with beans or chili peppers, but over time, tamale fillings became more diverse, including meat and vegetables. The tamale-making process also became more elaborate, with the introduction of the tamalada, a communal gathering to make tamales.

“Tamaladas were social events, where people gathered together to prepare tamales, share stories, and bond with their community.”

The Importance of Maize

Maize was a sacred crop for Mesoamerican cultures, and it played an essential role in their mythology and religion. The Aztecs believed that humans were created from maize, and they offered tamales as part of ritual offerings to their deities.

Central Mexico was the birthplace of tamale-making, and the dish spread throughout Mesoamerica. In the present day, tamales are a popular food in many Hispanic and Latin American countries, and they are particularly enjoyed during the Christmas season.

The Tamale-Making Process

1Prepare the corn husks by soaking them in warm water until they are pliable.
2Make the masa (corn flour dough) by mixing masa harina with water or broth.
3Assemble the fillings, such as meat, cheese, or vegetables.
4Spread the masa on the corn husks, add the fillings, and roll them up.
5Steam the tamales for about an hour until they are fully cooked.

The Significance of Tamales at Christmas

While tamales are enjoyed year-round, they have a special significance during the Christmas season. In many Hispanic and Latin American cultures, it is customary to have a “tamalada” where families gather to make tamales together. This tradition creates a sense of togetherness and reinforces the importance of community and family during the holiday season.

Overall, tamales have a rich history and cultural significance that make them much more than just a delicious food. They represent a shared heritage, a symbol of celebration and togetherness, and a way to honor ancient traditions and customs.

Tamales: A Symbol of Celebration and Togetherness

The tradition of making tamales has been an integral part of Hispanic and Mexican-American families for generations. Known as a tamalada, the tamale-making party is a festive gathering that brings family and friends together in the kitchen to bond and celebrate.

For families of Hispanic heritage, the tamale-making process is a symbol of celebration and togetherness. It is a cherished tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation, keeping the culture and customs of their ancestors alive.

Gathering to Make TamalesThe KitchenCelebration
The tamalada is a gathering of family and friends to make tamales together.The kitchen is the heart of the home during tamale-making time.The tamale-making process is a celebration of culture, family, and togetherness.
It is a way to bring people together, share stories, and enjoy each other’s company.Everyone pitches in, from the youngest to the oldest, creating a sense of unity and teamwork.It is a time to laugh, sing, and celebrate the joy of the holiday season.

For Mexican American families, tamale-making is a way to honor their heritage and keep traditions alive. While the process of making tamales may vary from family to family, the underlying sentiment remains the same. It is a time to come together, bond, and celebrate the spirit of the season.

The tamale-making process is not just about the end result but about the journey. It brings families and friends together in a way that few other traditions do, creating memories and bonds that last a lifetime.

“It’s a tradition that passes on from generation to generation. It’s a way to connect with my ancestors and honor their memory,” says Claudia, a Mexican American mother from Los Angeles.

So this holiday season, gather your loved ones in the kitchen for a tamalada and celebrate the joy of tamales as a symbol of celebration and togetherness.

The Ritual and Process of Tamale-Making

Tamales are a labor of love that require time, patience, and a lot of teamwork. From preparing the corn husks to steaming the finished product, the tamale-making process is an art form that has been passed down through generations. Let’s take a closer look at the key steps involved:

Step 1: Preparing the Corn Husks

The first step in tamale-making is to prepare the corn husks, which serve as the wrappers for the tamales. The husks need to be soaked in hot water for about an hour to make them pliable. Once they are soft, they are rinsed and dried before being used to wrap the tamales.

Step 2: Making the Masa

The masa is the corn flour dough that forms the base of the tamales. The masa is typically made by mixing masa harina (corn flour), water or broth, lard, and salt. The mixture is beaten until it has a light, fluffy texture.

Step 3: Assembling the Fillings

Fillings for tamales can vary widely, from meat and cheese to vegetables and fruits. The filling is typically placed on the top third of the masa-covered husk before being rolled up like a burrito.

Step 4: Rolling and Tying the Tamales

Once the filling is in place, the tamale is rolled tightly and the ends are folded up. A small strip of the husk is torn off and used to tie the tamale securely. This process is repeated until all the masa and fillings are used up.

Step 5: Steaming the Tamales

The tamales are then placed in a steamer upright with the open end facing up. They are steamed for approximately 1-2 hours until they are cooked through.

The Traditional Assembly Line Method

While the tamale-making process can be time-consuming, it’s also a fun and communal experience that brings families and friends together. The traditional method involves setting up an assembly line, with each person taking on a specific task, such as spreading the masa or filling the husks. This way, everyone can take part in the tamale-making process, making it a truly collaborative effort.

The Key Ingredients

The key ingredients in tamale-making are corn flour, meat or vegetable filling, lard, and corn husks. Some tamale recipes also call for spices and herbs like chili powder and cumin. The use of lard is traditional in tamale-making, but vegetable shortening or oil can be used as a substitute.

The Finished Product: Bundles of Deliciousness

Once the tamales are cooked, they are ready to be unwrapped and enjoyed. Tamales can be served with a variety of toppings, such as salsa, sour cream, or guacamole. They are a delicious and satisfying meal that make the perfect addition to any holiday celebration.

Tamales: A Gastronomic Delight for Christmas

One of the best things about tamales is the endless variety of fillings that can be used to make them. From savory to sweet, there is something for everyone. Some of the most popular fillings include:

Red PorkA classic, Tex-Mex-style filling made with slow-cooked pork in a spicy red sauce.
Meat FillingA mixture of ground beef or chicken, spices, and tomatoes.
Dried CornA traditional filling made with rehydrated dried corn, seasoned with chili powder and cumin.
SquashA vegetarian option made with roasted squash, onions, and peppers.

Tamales are especially popular in Texas, where they have become a staple of Tex-Mex cuisine. Texans take pride in their tamale-making skills and have even created their own unique style of tamale, which is often filled with chili and cheese.

Of course, making tamales is no easy feat, but the process is an integral part of the holiday season. The phrase “tamale time” is used to describe the period leading up to Christmas when families gather together to make tamales.

“For me, making tamales is a way to connect with my heritage and keep traditions alive,” says Claudia, a Texas native with Mexican roots. “It’s a time when my family comes together to share stories, laughter, and of course, food.”

Whether you prefer classic red pork tamales or something a little more unusual, there’s no denying that tamales are a delicious addition to any holiday feast.

Tamales: A Cultural Heritage and Tradition

Tamales are an important part of the cultural heritage of Mexico, Mexican-Texan, and Hispanic communities. The origins of this traditional dish can be traced back to ancient Mesoamerican cultures, where the tamal was a staple food. In fact, the word “tamal” comes from the Nahuatl language, spoken by the Aztecs and other central Mexican peoples.

The tamale is a close relative of the tortilla, another staple food of Mexico and Central America. Both are made from masa, a dough made from dried corn that is then boiled or steamed and served with a variety of fillings and toppings. However, while tortillas are generally flat and thin, tamales are thicker and are wrapped in corn husks before cooking.

The tamale-making process has been passed down through generations of Mexican and Hispanic families, and it is often a time for bonding and celebration. Many families gather together for a tamalada, or tamale-making party, during the holiday season, which we call “tamale time.”

This tradition has been celebrated for many years and has become an integral part of the Mexican and Hispanic culture. In recent years, it has also gained popularity in other parts of the United States and around the world, as people have come to appreciate the deliciousness and significance of this dish.

Tamales: The Spirit of Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is a sacred occasion for many families, and tamales have become an essential part of the celebrations. In Mexican culture, tamales are often served at midnight on Christmas Eve, after a long day of anticipation and preparation. It is a time for families to come together, share stories, and enjoy the warmth of each other’s company.

But tamales are not just reserved for Christmas Eve. They are also a popular dish during other religious milestones, such as baptisms and first communions. These celebrations are often marked by a tamalada, a gathering of family and friends to make and enjoy tamales.

In some regions, tamales are also connected to the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a revered figure in Mexican culture. Festivities often include tamales as a way to honor her and bring the community together.

The Significance of Tamales in Religious Celebrations

The tradition of making tamales for religious celebrations dates back centuries and is deeply rooted in Mesoamerican cultures. Tamales were often used as part of ritual offerings to deities, and many believed that the gods made humans from corn, making tamales a substance of life.

Today, tamales continue to hold a special place in the hearts of many families, not just for their delicious taste but also for the sense of ritual and spiritual connection they provide. The act of making tamales together is a way to strengthen family bonds and pass down cultural traditions to future generations.

“Tamales are not just a dish; they are a symbol of our heritage and traditions, a way of connecting with our ancestors and honoring our culture.” – Claudia, a Mexican-American mother of two.

Planning a Tamale-Making Party

If you’re interested in incorporating tamales into your own celebrations, why not plan a tamale-making party? It’s a fun and interactive way to bring everyone together and create something delicious as a team.

To plan a successful tamalada, here are a few tips:

Invite guests ahead of timeLet everyone know the date and time of the tamalada so they can plan accordingly. It’s also important to ask them to bring specific ingredients if necessary.
Prepare the ingredients in advanceCook the fillings and prepare the masa ahead of time so you’re ready to start assembling tamales when everyone arrives.
Set up a tamale-making stationHave a designated area where everyone can assemble their tamales. Make sure to have all the necessary ingredients, including corn husks, fillings, and masa, as well as kitchen tools like spatulas and bowls.
Steam the tamales togetherOnce all the tamales are assembled, steam them together in a large pot. This is a great time to relax, catch up with loved ones, and savor the anticipation of the delicious tamales to come.

By following these steps, you can create a memorable tamale-making experience that embodies the spirit of togetherness and celebration.

Tamales: A Symbol of Love and Tradition

Tamales are not just a food, they are a symbol of love and tradition passed down for decades. For many families, Christmas without tamales is simply unimaginable. As De Los Angeles Times food writer, Claudia, puts it, “If you celebrate Christmas and you’re Hispanic, then you’re probably making tamales.”

The tamale-making tradition is often a family affair, with generations coming together to carry on the ritual. Tamales are not just a dish to be eaten, but a way to celebrate by gathering to make them. The process of tamale-making is a joyful experience that brings families closer together and creates lasting memories.

“Tamales are the ultimate celebration food. Nothing screams ‘fiesta’ like a steaming pot of tamales. They are a staple not just on Christmas, but on many special occasions,” says Bandera, a Mexican-American food blogger.

It’s not just about the food, it’s about the tradition and the love that goes into making tamales. For many families, tamale-making is a way to honor their heritage and keep traditions alive. In fact, a tamale-making session can become a day-long event with family and friends coming together to share stories, laughter, and of course, delicious food.

Passed Down for DecadesTamale-MakingCelebration
Many families have been making tamales for generations, passing down recipes and techniques from parents to children.The tamale-making process is steeped in tradition, with each step carefully executed to ensure the perfect tamale.From Christmas to various other special occasions, tamales are an integral part of many celebrations in Hispanic communities.
The Los Angeles Times notes that, “Families gather to make tamales year-round, but Christmas is the most important time.”From spreading the masa on the corn husks to filling and wrapping them, tamale-making is a labor of love that creates a sense of togetherness.The sense of community and joy that comes with tamale-making is just as important as the final product.

For many families, tamales are more than just a dish, they are a symbol of love and tradition. So this Christmas, take the time to gather with your loved ones and continue the tamale-making tradition. The memories and the delicious food will be worth it.

Tamales: Nourishing Body and Soul

For Mesoamerican cultures, corn was more than just a staple food; it was the substance of life. According to legend, the gods made humans from corn, imbuing tamales with a spiritual significance that extends beyond their delicious taste. Tamales were often a part of ritual offerings to the gods, and their preparation was imbued with a sacred quality.

Claudia, a woman from Mexico, describes the spiritual connection she feels while making tamales. She says, “It’s like I’m communing with my ancestors. The masa in my hands connects me to generations of women who have made tamales before me.”

But tamales aren’t just nourishing to the soul; they also provide sustenance for the body. The combination of corn dough and filling creates a filling and satisfying meal that can be enjoyed any time of day. Whether they’re simmered in a savory sauce or steamed with sweet fruits, tamales offer a substantial and nourishing meal that can sustain you through the day.


As Christmas approaches, families everywhere are preparing to gather and celebrate the holiday season. And for many, this celebration includes a beloved tradition: making and eating tamales. Tamales at Christmas are an important part of Mexican, Mexican-Texan, and Hispanic cultural heritage, and have become a cherished tradition for many families.

But it’s not just about the delicious taste of tamales. Tamale-making, or a “tamalada,” brings families together in the kitchen to work as a team, creating a special sense of togetherness and connection. It’s a time-honored ritual that has been passed down through generations and continues to be cherished by families today.

Whether you’re making tamales for the first time or have been doing it for years, the process of making tamales is a true labor of love. From preparing the corn husks to assembling the fillings, every step is carefully crafted to create the perfect tamale. And as families gather to make tamales, there is a sense of joy and celebration in the air.

So this Christmas, let’s celebrate by gathering to make tamales. Let’s embrace the tradition of tamale-making and the sense of togetherness it fosters. Let’s savor the taste of tamales, a delicious treat that nourishes both the body and soul. Let’s make tamales a part of our Christmas tradition and continue to pass down this cherished ritual to future generations.

Happy Tamale Time and Merry Christmas!


Why is eating tamales on Christmas a tradition?

Eating tamales on Christmas has become a cherished tradition because it brings families together, celebrates Mexican heritage, and adds a special touch to the holiday season.

What is the history behind tamales at Christmas?

Tamales have ancient roots in Mesoamerican cultures like the Aztecs, where corn was a staple food. Over time, tamales became an integral part of Christmas celebrations in Central Mexico and beyond.

Why are tamales a symbol of celebration and togetherness?

Tamales are a symbol of celebration and togetherness because they often involve a tamalada, where families gather in the kitchen to make tamales, sharing stories, laughter, and creating lasting memories.

What is the process of tamale-making?

Tamale-making involves preparing corn husks, making the masa (corn flour dough), assembling the fillings, and steaming the tamales. It can be a fun and collaborative process, with some families even creating assembly lines.

What are some popular fillings for tamales?

Popular fillings for tamales include red pork, chicken, beef, cheese, and even vegetarian options. Different regions have their own unique variations, such as Tex-Mex-style tamales in Texas.

Why are tamales considered a cultural heritage and tradition?

Tamales are considered a cultural heritage and tradition because they have been passed down through generations in Mexican, Mexican-Texan, and Hispanic communities. They represent a connection to ancient Mesoamerican roots and a celebration of cultural identity.

Why are tamales significant on Christmas Eve?

Tamales are significant on Christmas Eve because they are often enjoyed as part of a festive meal, celebrating the spirit of the season and adding a special touch to religious milestones and gatherings with loved ones.

What is the sentimental value of tamales?

Tamales hold sentimental value because they are often tied to heartwarming family traditions. Families pass down tamale-making techniques and recipes, creating a sense of love, connection, and continuity.

Are tamales just a delicious food or do they have a deeper meaning?

Tamales have a deeper meaning beyond being delicious food. In Mesoamerican cultures, corn was believed to be the substance of life, and making and eating tamales can be a spiritual experience that nourishes both the body and the soul.

Why are tamales an important part of Christmas celebrations?

Tamales are an important part of Christmas celebrations because they bring joy, tradition, and a sense of togetherness. They help connect families to their cultural heritage and create lasting memories during the holiday season.

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