After living in three big cities and having family in two others, we don't have a lot of annual holiday traditions. We do the "city holiday stuff" in whatever city we're celebrating in that particular year, we bake cookies, we hang stockings, and we read our Christmas books.
Our beloved Christmas books follow us to wherever we will be for Christmas and we look forward to reading them throughout the holiday season. Here are a few of our favorites:
Olive the Other Reindeer
Snowmen at Night
N is for Navidad
The Best Christmas Pagaent Ever
The Legend of the Poinsettia
Our favorite of all, however, is probably Pablo's Christmas, a story about a boy in rural Mexico who has to care for his family while his father travels to the United States in search of work. Pablo has to do many of the chores left by his father's absence, including scary ones like fighting off coyotes from the chicken coop. As Christmas approaches, there is no word from his father and his young sisters fear that a "magical queen" has tricked their father into falling in love with her and staying in the United States. Pablo sets out to make Christmas special for his mom and young sisters, despite their lack of food and money. He cuts a Christmas tree and carves dolls for gifts. On Christmas Eve his father triumphantly returns, bringing the family back needed money and a few gifts as well.
We've talked a lot about that book over the years. Why Pablo's father would leave his family to work in the US. What kind of work Pablo's father likely had to do when he arrived here. Why their own Abuelos made the same decision to travel to the US for work many years ago. How that courageous decision changed our entire family's life for the better.
The boys see men working around the city every day. Men who resemble their abuelo and their papi. They work in the peripheries of the city. These men do construction, they dig ditches, work in the back of restaurants, they spend anxious mornings in Home Depot parking lots, hoping the day will bring work. Their hands are dry and callused and their eyes tired.
Thanks to the story of Pablo's Christmas, the boys look at these men working around them and see Pablo's Papa. They see loving husbands and doting fathers forced to work far away from their families. They wonder if these men miss the food, the language, the predictable customs of their hometowns. They hope that there is a happy homecoming with their families awaiting these men very soon. Perhaps on Christmas Eve.