Region 8's Hispanic Community Celebrates the Holidays

December 10, 2003--Posted at 5:17 p.m.

JONESBORO--Many Region 8 residents celebrate their holiday season by hanging mistletoe and stringing lights on a tree. But for about 6,000 people in Region 8, Christmas is a time of pinatas and fireworks.

Ben Sanchez is the President of the Hispanic Community Services and also editor of El Hispano Newspaper. He says Hispanic traditions include lots of food and music.
"In Mexico, it's all about music and food, basically. Everybody is cooking and everybody is around the table, and dancing, lots of music and dancing and food. Tamales are often popular around Christmas time!"
Holidays for the Hispanic community are different than what you would expect. Children celebrate Christmas day with pinatas and fireworks...and a trip to church.
"It's more of a religious thing, you go to church, and you make sure you remember what it's all about. So that's basically a tradition in Mexico," said Sanchez.
And speaking of tradition, many people may not know that poinsettias are originally from Mexico...but don't even think about giving them as a gift to someone young!
"I'm going to be honest. In Mexico, poinsettias are especially for old people...that's for old people," laughed Rita Soto, office manager for the El Hispano Newspaper.
But celebrating the holidays in Region 8 sometimes makes it challenging for many Hispanics.  Laws prohibit celebrating with fireworks, and pinatas are sometimes hard to find.
"We adapt, and we keep the spirit of Christmas somehow," said Sanchez.
Often, Hispanic parents are able to keep the Christmas spirit alive with special gifts to their children.
"Back in Mexico, children receive a lot of homemade's very important. Some of the kids enjoy receiving a gift that the father build himself, something that he created himself for the son, so that's a little different, here we go to the store and buy something real quick," said Sanchez. 
Both religion and family traditions are much more important than presents and Santa Claus in Hispanic communities.
"We emphasize more on religion and we emphasize more about Jesus," said Sanchez.
And while things are just a little different in the Hispanic community, something will always stay the same...
"It's about party, but it's about remembering Jesus," laughed Soto.

If you're in Region 8 and would like to celebrate the holidays Hispanic-style, you're in luck.

A children's Christmas Festival will be held Sunday, December 14th from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Earl Bell Community Center in Jonesboro. There, children can experience the Hispanic culture through games, food and Hispanic Christmas carols...and best of all, it's free and open to the public.

For more information, you can call 972-3035