Nochebuena in the O.C. (¡Oh, Sí!)

I'm just now recovering from the Food Coma that has ensued since our fabulous Nochebuena celebration.

Once again it fell to me to host My Big, Fat, Cuban Family for our big Cuban feast on December the 24th. Cubans celebrate Christmas Eve more so than Christmas Day. It's a fall-back, I think, to the days when we actually celebrated the 12 days of Christmas leading up to January 6th and the Feast of the Epiphany. January 6th was the day The 3 Kings brought our presents. We call it El Dia de Los Reyes but that's not important right now.

I think that just about every Cuban I talk to feels that December the 24th is especially ours. It's a Cuban thing. It's our Christmas. Our very Cuban menu. Our special night. I kind of love that.

My sisters all pitch in to cook the classic menu of roast pig (lechón asado), black beans, white rice, yuca with mojo, and plantains.

Cuban food plate
A perfectly perfect Cuban feast. Clockwise from the top: Cuban bread, fried plantains, green salad, yuca with garlic mojo, roast pork, black beans and white rice.

Cuban food for a crowd (or my immediate family) looks like this:

Cuban food

Since we celebrate at my house (my freakishly small house), it falls to us to prepare the tables and decorate.

Happily, this is what I do best.

My kids have all been in theater and because we entertain so much and have to always move furniture around to fit people. (Did I mention my house was freakishly small? I know I did.) Lucy, who is a Stage Manager for the productions at Saddleback College has wisely shared the attitude that we are just "set designing" for a production. I kind of love that.

We moved furniture and made a Feliz Navidad banner to go across the room. Lucy and Adam strung lights across the room overhead and set the table with candles and chargers and runners and greenery. It was quite magical.

Feliz navidad
Beyond this room and past the kitchen, we enclosed the patio and added two more tables. See what I mean? Freakishly small.

There was no room for my 7 foot tall Christmas tree. What to do? Put small trees in the corners of the living and dining rooms. That turned out to be lots of fun and a big hit.


We set up a photobooth in Jonathan's room. (More on that tomorrow.)

Luza & me
My 98 year old mom, Luza, and me. She was celebrating her 98th Nochebuena.

The desserts were very typically Cuban:

Pastelitos de guayaba y queso crema. (Guava and cream cheese pastries.)

And of course, my Mom's Famous Flan:


And the Creme de Vie flowed all night.

Crema de vie

The evening was a great success. Everyone was happy and in a wonderful celebratory mood. I so enjoy celebrating family and Christmas in this very Cuban way.

The cousins stayed to help tear down tables and to help us prepare for our Christmas Day the next morning.

Which led, of course, to a late night dance party. Of course.


And because we had no tree, we just stacked the presents in the middle of the room.


I kind of loved that. In fact, I kind of loved all of it.