It was the week before Christmas when I received a call from my parents who were in Florida visiting family. My mother said she was on her way back to Georgia and was bringing a pig for Christmas Eve. Knowing that it is customary in our country to have a roasted pig for Christmas, I didn’t really give it much thought. However, it occurred to me that they were driving from Florida, nine hours to our home, and so I asked how in the world they were planning to bring this pig home. My parents calmly responded that they had asked the butcher to prepare and freeze the pig to preserve it for the long journey. Already I was beginning to feel as though I was about to experience a blast from the past that my nuclear family was not prepared for.
I thought it was funny that we were actually going to roast a pig ourselves but, to be honest, I didn’t know how we would pull it off. Although this was part of my family’s Christmas tradition while I was growing up in Puerto Rico, it was not a tradition I brought into my marriage. We are the typical family that cooks meat already packaged. And pork is seldom on our menu. I knew this would be quite the experience for my husband and children, and I felt a little bit apprehensive and somewhat uncomfortable with the whole thing. I kept thinking my children would think their mother’s family was strange and would somehow feel awkward around their grandparents.
To my surprise, this turned out to be the highlight of our Christmas that year. Who would have thought a family could bond over a roasted pig! What I thought would be seen as an embarrassing and ridiculous custom became an opportunity to teach about my upbringing and my people. My boys loved every part of the experience. They took pictures of the pig on arrival, while being seasoned, after being roasted and even while being eaten. We had so much fun!
I know that pork is despised by many cultures as an unclean meat; however, in my culture it is perfectly normal to eat pork, especially at Christmas time. Though my immediate family does not typically eat pork, I saw this as an opportunity. It allowed my parents to enjoy a tradition from our country while sharing a tangible cultural experience with their grandchildren. I know my boys will remember this for a long time to come.
We had an exchange student from Germany living with us that Christmas. When asked what he thought of our Christmas Eve dinner, he told me that he loved the fact that our celebration was so different from what he was accustomed to. The highlight of the meal for him was….you guessed it. The pig!