Christmas Day, Republic of Hialeah (land of excellent food and horrible politics) --- According to my lil' nieces, today is Santa Claus' Day ("el dia de Santa Clo").
Every parent is entitled to cultivate in their kids the holiday myths of their choice, so this Titi (auntie, in Boricua Spanish) is careful not to step on any parental toes. I'm no fan of religious dogma, but just letting Santa steal the limelight completely away from Baby Jesus just doesn't sit right with me.
I decided that asking (not telling) the girls about Baby Jesus would not violate my Code of Titi Ethics. So I asked them if they knew what else people celebrated on December 25th. But I only got back little cute shoulders shrugging. I pressed on and asked if they knew that people also celebrated the birth of "el niñito Jesus" that day.
Their reply?: "De quien?" (Who?)
I thought maybe they didn't hear me. So I repeated: "Del niñito Jesus."
Their wide-eyed reply: "Y que niñito es ese?" (What little boy is that?)
It took me a few seconds to get my bearings straight and decide if I should continue with the interview that I didn't want turning into an indoctrination session.
So I showed them the plastic "nacimiento" (nativity scene) that Mami has been putting under the tree ever since I can remember.
"Do you know what this is?" I asked.
"No," said the eldest, shaking her head.
"That's a cow, that's a donkey, that's a baby..." the youngest said, pointing to each of the little figures.
O.k., enough meddling, Titi, I thought. Hopefully, at some point in the midst of today's present-opening frenzy, I'll get to ask their parents (my cousins that I adore and that have become "my Cuban brother and sister") about what they've told (or not told) the girls. And, if my cousins give me the green light, maybe some other day I'll tell the girls about that other myth that I find so inspiring.
I have no idea how to spin it, though. How to instill both critical thought and a love of myth in a four year-old and a six year-old?
I know it is possible, since my Dad infused Christmas with his nationalist views, managing to convince me early on that Santa was o.k. but the Three Kings were even better, because Santa was a gringo tradition while the Three Kings were "ours."
In fact, maybe next Three Kings Day, January 6th, is the day to start with my nieces. Maybe like the little girl their Titi used to be, they'll get a kick out of cutting grass and putting it in a shoebox under the bed as food for the 3 Wise Men's camels. But, frankly, Titi's hesitant. The last thing I want is for the beautiful story of the Three Kings visiting Baby Jesus turning into another excuse for accumulating an even bigger mountain of toys.
Maybe Titi's Three Kings will bring them cash on the condition that it go straight into their college fund.
These thoughts are inspired by Titi's Little Angels and the Christmas bundles of joy of Titi Sandy, Titi Michelle Alamo and the proud titis and tios of the Torres Saez clan.