Every Christmas, our family, like many other Mexican families sits down, spreads out the oil cloth, splits up the masa and hojas and pounds out a good tens of dozens of tamales (about 26 dozen this year...but this is no official count). Our tamaladas, or tamale-making parties, are full of laughter, and full of our family history and traditions. We may joke that we make them because it gives us something to open up on Christmas morning but the time spent with family, catching up on our lives, and reliving memories is the best reason to throw a tamalada...and, you know, the fact that tamales are outrageously delicious, a true Christmas treat.
While tamaladas are great fun, tamale-making is serious work full of superstitions. The masa must be perfectly thin on the smooth side of the hoja. Stuffed with meat, beans, or maybe you make the sweet corn kind, it all comes down to a few small rituals: count your tamales (purely for bragging rights, according to my Grandma...and if you miscount, you must recount when they're done cooking before anybody eats them!), use the bathroom before the steaming starts, and they are best eaten leftover, toasted in a pan served with ketchup (don't mock the ketchup until you try our quirky family tradition).
From our familia to yours, feliz navidad y próspero año nuevo!