Five Mexican Christmas Food Traditions That Should Happen Year-Round

Although I've never liked Thanksgiving, I absolutely love the Christmas holidays–not just because of the whole Nazarene bit, but also because my mom and her sisters prepare foodstuffs we don't have at any other point of the year.

Sure, they pat out tamales in numbers big enough to feed an army (also known as the Miranda clan), but there are those treats that they and so many other Mexi women make for that holiday and that holiday alone. Why not have them all year?

My favorite after the jump!

1. Ponche

It translates literally as “punch,” as in the drink, not the blow to your head–but don't dare compare it to Kool-Aid or some other corn-fructose-laden dreck. A proper ponche contains all sorts of fruits, boiled for hours until a wine-red liquid emerges, thick with the pulp of oranges, pineapples, guyaba, sugarcane, pears, prunes, apples, tecojotes (similar to a crab apple, but tarter) and even cloves. Spicy, tart, sweet, yet not too sugary, served scalding hot–nothing makes a cold evening go faster, and it's even better when spiked with brandy, per tradition. I'm still surprised why ponche hasn't joined champurrado, atole, canela, and chocolate into the year-round menu of hot Mexican drinks.

2. Bolo

No real way to translate this one. Essentially, at the end of every posada (the Latin American Catholic tradition that has kids reenact Joseph and Mary looking for lodging before the birth of Christ) and after the destruction of a piñata, adults give children a bag filled with goodies–usually peanuts and candies, but sometimes coins and dollar bills. Other Latinos call it a bola (ball), but my tribe of wabs call it bolo–go figure.
3. Rosca de Reyes

This ring of pan dulce (essentially playing the same role as New Orlean's Mardi Gras King Cake, except for Epiphany but with the same statues of Christ inside) is a fruitful delight, not just containing powdered sugar or jellies like most pan dulce but also figs, quince, cherries and other whole fruits. I understand the appreciation of tradition, but panaderos: make this one every day, ¿qué no?

4. Biscochitos

These anise-flavored cookies (sometimes called Mexican wedding cookies) are a year-round tradition in New Mexico and nowhere else. For the rest of us, we can only enjoy these firm, round galletas around Navidad, and only if we had a relative move to Las Cruces or Albuquerque in the past five years.

5. Buñuelos

I saved this one for the end because I actually don't care much for the fried flour tortilla dusted with cinnamon and sugar. A lot of Mexican restaurants sell versions of this dessert, but usually severely compromised. Only during Christmas does the true glory (if you're into them, at least) of buñuelos arise, where the kitchens of Mexican households find stacks of dozens of then, gnarled and brittle. This dessert works so much better than the fried ice cream offered at other restaurants.

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