By Wayne Negrete, S.J.
My family will not be gathering at my oldest sister’s home this Christmas Eve, instead we will be doing something new.
The Negrete family traditionally joins together at my sister’s house on Dec. 24 para arrullar y acostar al Niño Dios. This family tradition was brought from Mexico by my paternal grandparents who immigrated in 1916. My brothers and sisters remind our family that we celebrate Christmas with para arrullar y acostar al Niño Dios to remember our roots, however we do this tradition especially “for the children.”
On Christmas Eve, adults and children gather in pairs near the nacimiento (nativity scene). We sing a lullaby called A la Rorro Niño (“Go to Sleep My Baby”), as we rock a statue of the Christ Child wrapped in a white cloth. After a few moments, we pass Baby Jesus to the pair next to us. After every pair has rocked the Christ Child, the lullaby is concluded, and the Child is presented to each person to kiss before placing him into the manger to sleep. The holy evening continues with a tamale dinner, the sharing of memories, lots of laughter, and the opening of gifts by the children.
This year, because of Covid-19, the 30 of us will not be gathering at my sister’s house on Christmas Eve, instead, there will be separate gatherings of the family in five homes. We will arrullar y acostar al Niño Dios all at the same time while connected by Zoom. Christmas Eve will be celebrated in a new way, but the family will remain connected during this blessed evening. How will you and yours make Christmas new this year?
Although we will miss being with one another, we will stay at home to slow the spread of COVID-19 infections. We will wear our masks. We will do our part to save lives by putting less stress on our health care workers and the health care system. We do this also for our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends, and each other. We do it for the Christ Child who draws us into the mystery of his vulnerable humanity and welcomes our care, compassion, protection and love.
This will be a new Christmas. We will celebrate Christmas in a new way to protect the Christ Child in all of us.