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Christmas in Alhambra

A photo collection of some of Alhambra's extraordinary light displays — and some holiday traditions new and old.*

A late-night tamalalada

"Late on Christmas Eve we would join Manny’s family at his mother’s house in Alhambra. The house would be packed with people. The kids were supposed to be sleeping, but no one could. At midnight, Father Christmas would show up and all the kids would rip and tear through their gifts, then everyone would eat tamales and talk and play and laugh long into the night. Abuela’s house was full of people, noise and love," Wendy Hornsby writes in the Long Beach Gazette.com.

An exuberant once-a-year gathering for those without local relatives

All those who don't have relatives will gather together. We will cook our own favorite dishes and have a feast.  There will be 20 to 30 of us and crowded and noisy.  We would be cooking, preparing food and laughing and telling each other what happened in our life.  Dinner would be a feast, we would  be drinking wine, men and women would be telling their favorite stories or experiences, funny events in the US and in China and the highlights of what we went through last year and what lay ahead next year.  Then before we leave we would exchange gifts.  Then we will say goodbye to each other, some of the people we only see once a year.  Then we will drive into the dark night to the next year. — Jenny Hu 

Champurrado, bunuelos, and giving thanks for the blessing of family

Christmas is a whirlwind of activity. As much as I promise myself that I won't be out (again) on Christmas Eve, I usually am, buying that last gift. But come evening, the fun begins! We go to Grandma G's where the aunts, uncles and cousins from one side of the family gather for a night of eating and overeating delicious food, especially her tamales. I look forward to the champurrado! We used to have to wait until midnight to open the gifts, but as each year passes, the time gets earlier and earlier as the grandkids cajole Grandma G into giving the okay. So until then, eating, talking, games and reminiscing fill the time. We'll pack up bags of tamales to bring home, load the gifts, make sure all the kids are in the car and head home, looking forward to Christmas Day.Christmas Day brings our family together to open our gifts here at home. I'm usually the one to get everyone up. We're tired but there is much more fun to be had! I'll make Christmas breakfast—nothing extraordinary, but it's our tradition, and then we'll rest a bit before going to Grandma Nina's where we'll eat ham and mashed potatoes, bunuelos and piloncillo made by Grandma Chayo (my brother's MIL who lives right next door), spending time with more aunts, uncles and cousins. Family is a blessing and I firmly believe love is the heart of Christmas. — Kerrie Gutierrez

Giving back and Chinese food: making the day special when you don't celebrate Christmas

I hooked up with a friend I haven't spoken with in over three years. We are going to visit her mother who is at a home for Alzheimer patients. It's a perfect way to spend the day. A few years ago I went with some other non-Cristian friends to have dinner at Norms in West Covina. There was a three-hour wait and nothing else was open. We came back to Alhambra and had our choice of more Chinese restaurants than Santa has elves. —Gregory Miller

*Originally published December 24, 2010

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2 thoughts on “Christmas in Alhambra”

  1. Obligatory morning dim sum and bowling session with the family to stay true to our roots and get our game on!
    Happy Holidays to the Alhambra Source and its beloved readers! <3

  2. OK, my turn?

    My grandparents had eleven children, and each one has two or three children, and then there are the great grand children, so the house is busting at the seams by Christmas morning.

    Whenever someone arrives, the door swings open and a draft pours into the room, but just as quick they shed their jackets and are devoured by the large mass of bodies and hugs. The kitchen is in perpetual chaos as someone is either burning a tortilla at the oven, zapping something in the microwave, or the worst – when someone leaves the lid off the pot of menudo. One aunt always cries, one uncle gives you $5, but later asks for it back, all the younger cousins get super hyper on all the cookies, and then there are the relatives who give you a gift, but really it’s a pile of cookies from the other room. Thank goodness it’s only once a year.