I’m a tradition fiend. Learning about the traditions that friends and family treasure is something I’ve always enjoyed. The holiday season is a time rich with familial rituals and fond memories. From the quirkiest of Chevy Chase-esque escapades to the traditional midnight mass religious ceremonies, they all fascinate me. Why do we cling to our holiday routines? Is it the warmth of old memories? Is it the comfort and familiarity of fond memories of the past?
Our little family does not yet have any significant established traditions. That doesn’t mean I’m not itching to create some. My husband makes fun of me because he thinks traditions should be spontaneous, not planned. Traditions should arise from authentic family experiences, I agree. However what’s wrong with a little planned magic?
I can’t possibly be the only mother who schemes to plant magical seeds of family memories in my kids’ psyches. It isn’t that we don’t have absolutely wonderful times together – we do - but I love the opportunity to surprise my kids and soak in the look of wonder in their eyes. That’s the beauty of childhood. Sometimes the simplest things can remind us of the best of times in our lives. A fleeting hint of fragrance, a note from a song, or a familiar face can jog something in our mind’s periphery that takes us straight to our happiest place.
While I don’t yet have any established traditions with my little ones, I have plenty of fond memories from my own childhood. They involve booze. Sort of. Put away your pitchforks and let me explain. I’m a Dominican American. I’m a first-generation American, which means many of my traditions stem from my family’s Caribbean roots. Many of my earliest memories revolve around the sound of bachata music, the smell of coconut, and the taste of plantains.
There are many ways Dominicans celebrate the holidays with their families, but one of my favorites is sipping on glasses of Coquito. Coquito is a Caribbean version of eggnog. Some say it has Puerto Rican roots. Others dispute that. Mention that to the wrong Dominican, and you’re off the Christmas coquito list for life. Hold your tongue.
It’s for the best.
The beginning of December heralds the holiday gift giving season. I remember my mother receiving bottles of coquito from neighbors and coworkers. She enjoyed some, served some at parties, and regifted the remaining bottles -- if there was a surplus. Obviously, I never got a taste of the alcoholic variety, but my mother was kind enough to blend us a nonalcoholic version. I’m certain a love of coconut flows through my Dominican veins, and there’s no way I was going to watch everyone enjoy two of my favorite things, coconut and eggnog, without begging for some of my own.
Here is a recipe for you to try. The hype is real. Mix some of this up to add a bit of Latin flavor to your next holiday gathering. Before you ask me what size cans to use, let me remind you that my mother has never written her coquito recipe. She grabs whatever the standard can size is and goes with it, taking sips along the way.
It adds to the charm.
• 1 can cream of coconut • 1 can sweetened condensed milk • 1 can evaporated milk • ½ teaspoon canela (Mexican cinnamon but any good quality cinnamon works) • Pinch cloves • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (my favorite but extract is what is traditionally used) • ¼ cup white rum (keep or omit – use less or use more – taste as you go – live it up!)
Mix or blend all of the ingredients, serve over ice, and enjoy.
This post is part of the Favorite Holiday Traditions series, sponsored by Betty Crocker Cookies.