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El Nacimiento: A Hernandez Family Tradition

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The evening of Thanksgiving, after the family has gathered around the extended dining table and had our fill of signature home-made dishes, the work begins.

The food and tables are cleared to make room for boards and power tools, and construction starts. Not your typical holiday tradition, but one that the Hernandez family has been doing for over 100 years.

A Nacimiento is a Mexican/Hispanic tradition where a nativity scene representing the birth of Jesus Christ is placed at the center of the home. Ours takes over my grandma’s entire living room.

Colorado Voices

El Nacimiento


The Hernandez family has a unique Christmas tradition, one that is over 100 years old.

What started on a small table placed in the bay window of my paternal great grandmother’s house now takes up two 8’ x 4’ tables and is complete with homemade mountains, the North Pole, a lake, desert, town and, of course, the nativity scene.

It’s a tradition that involves the whole family from the oldest adults to the youngest children; everyone has a role. The adults build the frame and secure the sheets, the children individually pin the bulbs which represent stars in the night sky. Once that is finished, we start work on the mountains.

Gathering in a circle, we take paper bags and fill them with crumpled newspapers. Then we cover the bags in glue and topsoil. Once those have dried, we are able to set up the north pole, create the desert, and place all the animal figures that have been collected over the years.

My aunt, Teri Hernandez, builds the city. Each year the details are a little bit different, as they are across the entire altar, but we always have our staples: the ice-skating rink, the neighborhood, the Victorian village. But perhaps most notable is the Mariachi band in the center of town.

El Nacimiento is a Christmas tradition that brings us all together. Every year we reminisce on how the altar has changed or laugh about how we always have to relearn how to properly set up the tables each year. Traditions are an important part of every family, and yet they are so easily lost.

We are unsure of the future of this tradition, but its meaning and the memories we have will carry on. Maybe next year, when we are all able to celebrate the holidays together, this tradition can be revitalized.

Until then, we wish everyone a safe and wonderful holiday season!

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