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Mexican traditions shine bright as Christmas tree at Cooper home

A warm welcome awaits visitors to the home of Tony and Vivienne Cooper. The first view is the full Christmas tree in the living room. It is adorned in shades of white, silver and blues, including the wrapped gift boxes under the tree. That is the predominant color scheme throughout the home. The lit fireplace adds a cozy feeling, as sparkly silver-white Christmas stockings hang from the mantle awaiting a visit from St. Nicholas.

The dining table is accented with pale aqua place mats, while three graduated silver metal trees set off a flat tray centerpiece filled with small sliver, white and gold ornaments.

The one significant diversion from the modern theme is the beautifully traditional crèche, or manger scene. It is displayed in the open extended area of the kitchen, which serves as a family gathering spot to watch television while still keeping an eye on the cooking or eating.

Vivienne is carrying on many of the family celebrations she knew as a child growing up in Laredo, Mexico. She explained that the family always attended church on Christmas Eve; then returned to the homes of grandparents, where the large families gathered to celebrate. There would be a lot of food, music and fun that included opening of gifts. Then on Christmas Day it was time to see what Santa brought; and there was more food and family fun time.

The celebration did not end on Christmas Day, but picked up again on January 6, Epiphany, when they observed the Celebration of the Three Kings. There is a lot of candy and fruit received and consumed; and the tradition of the Rosca —a round bread ring specially made for the occasion.  One of the sections of the bread contains a small plastic baby hidden inside. It represents the Baby Jesus and is considered a blessing to the one who finds the baby.

There is a lot of Spanish music played at all celebrations, when someone picks up a guitar and someone else plays piano.  “We enjoy singing our favorite carols in Spanish,” explains Vivienne.

She shared a memory from her childhood. “My parents didn’t have much. I was lucky to have one pair of shoes per year.”  She and her siblings received some of the Samaritan Christmas boxes when they were young. She recalled that her box contained school items and toys, but she was crushed that she didn’t receive a baby doll, while others did. “Now, when we help fill the boxes at our church (Grace), I make sure all the boxes for girls have a baby doll.”

Many of our young families are acquainted with the Advent Calendars, where a window with a Christian message is opened each day of Advent.

Vivienne shared the story of a book she and the children read, It is called “Unpacking a Precious Gift.” It is similar to the calendar, inasmuch as there is a new lesson each day. Several years ago the four Cooper children, Joshua, Jonathan, Gynelle and Gia, made a small ornament representative of each day. Now they hang the ornaments—day by day—on a small tree located on the kitchen island. It serves as a decorative reminder of the season of preparation.

As most of Vivienne’s immediate family—her parents and brother— have moved here, the Cooper home is now the gathering spot for celebrations. It is decorated and ready for Feliz Navidad.