While winter holidays are cozy, chilly, relaxing times for many, Christmas traditions with Cubans is anything but a silent night. Many families will go out of town to their home countries to visit family or have the whole family come to see them. Here are some traditions we celebrate in my Cuban family in South Florida.
Clean, Clean, and Clean Again
You would think that Cuban moms and abuelas think we live in filth. If it is your turn to host this year, beware of the cleaning duties. You will have to clean things you have never thought of cleaning all throughout December. You may have to clean it twice. Bathroom essentials such as toothbrushes and topical medicines are not allowed to be seen. It must be good enough for the Three Kings and Santa. Otherwise, they won’t bring gifts.
Navigating Nativity Scenes
Most Hispanics identify as Christian. Cubans are predominantly Catholic, and we love our nativity sets. The bigger the better. Every year my parents must decide what room to flip around to accommodate the whole nativity scene, shepherds and all. There also might be a Baby Jesus in a manger somewhere special in the house. It is usually covered during Advent, the liturgical season before Christmas, to show that Christ has not come yet. In my house, my mom bought a bunch of straw from a craft store and had us put it in the manger whenever we did a good deed.
As multiple Christmas celebrations fill up the calendar, sometimes it feels more like Hanukah. With all the extended family that Cubans have, it is literally a fire hazard to put everyone together. You must separate everyone into their different subsets. Each of the four grandparents may have a party for that side of the family. And if you want to see any friends during the Christmas season, plan way ahead because the calendar fills up quickly. Oh, and don’t forget about St. Nicholas Day or Three Kings Day!
Holiday gift shopping can be extremely stressful and finding the right gift for a young adult that is entering college or is currently in college is definitely daunting. As a current college senior, I can even say it’s difficult to find a gift that is a balance of what a college student needs, wants, and will use too. Here are a few gifts I’ve received that I have used religiously in the past three years; hopefully this list will be helpful for holiday shoppers searching for a perfect gift for the college student in their life.
Amazon Prime Student Membership
This may sound obvious but having this membership has been a godsend as I’ve purchased a plethora of objects that I’ve needed last minute. Since many students do not have a car while living in dorms or have access to close malls, online shopping has saved me from many nervous breakdowns when I need something not immediately accessible.
College students are always on the go so the last thing you’d want to have while out and about is a dead phone. Having a portable battery charger provides the convenience of not having to worry about making sure to pack your charger each day and/or searching for an outlet when your phone is about to die.
Insulated Water Bottle
Continuing with students being on the go, having an insulated water bottle can keep my drinks cold for 24 hours or my hot drinks hot for 12 hours. I can stay hydrated in class, while studying, and while out and about. Plus, they’re dishwasher safe to make it such a low maintenance tool.
Since I consistently use my laptop, iPad, and phone while studying, my screen time has exponentially increased in college. Having blue-light blocking glasses has lessened my eye strain and helped me regulate my sleeping schedule.
Gift Card to Clothing Stores
I never realized until coming to college how expensive business casual or professional clothing was as my mom bought them for me in high school. However, having few trustworthy professional outfits has allowed me to switch around for job fairs, interviews, and internships with ease.
Trustworthy Laundry Hamper
I know a laundry hamper doesn’t sound like an exciting gift for a college student, but you have no idea how convenient it is when I don’t have to worry about a laundry hamper breaking when carrying downstairs or somewhere outside. It makes doing a nuisance task a little more bearable when I have one less thing to worry about.
From walking around campus to class or studying, having a trust-worthy set of headphones to tune out the sounds of the hustle and bustle of public spaces makes my menial activities a little more fun. Noise-cancelling headphones not only shut out distractions, they can also be beneficial to use while working out, if they’re wireless.
Being organized has been a crucial aspect of my college career and I’ve religiously gone through three planners to organize my homework, quizzes, exams, extracurricular club meetings. While I like having a physical notebook, there are actually online ones that are free. (What college student doesn’t like free stuff?)
Extra Long Charging Wire
For some reason, having a six-foot charger has come in handy more than I’d like to admit, especially since outlets are in such high demand—no matter where I am on campus. No one realizes just how useful this is until they get one and can never go back.
As you’re shopping for a college student/young adult, remember to try and balance fun and stylish with usability. Many college students are limited on space and will greatly appreciate something they can use every day to make their life a little easier.
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