The holidays bring countless traditions that hold a special place in the heart. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, everyone starts shopping and planning their Christmas festivities.

But here in Texas, one tradition reigns across many cultures, backgrounds and family dynamics: tamales.

Whether you make them, sell them, enjoy them (or a combination of all three), tamales are an integral part of the holiday season. Their rich history dates back to Aztec and and Mayan civilizations, and have become a staple for many Texan families in today’s culture. They’re sold by restaurants, tamale factories and families. Tamales are made at home around Thanksgiving or the beginning of December, to be enjoyed on Christmas or New Year’s.

One of the most interesting things about tamales is the way they’re made at home by families. “Tamalada” refers to a gathering where tamales are made and served. Laughter fills the room, gossip is had and memories are made around bowls filled with masa, meat and corn husks.

Ellen Riojas Clark, Ph.D., former UTSA professor and co-author of “Tamales, Comadres and the Meaning of Civilization,” has been making tamales for over 57 years. She invited us to her home in San Antonio for one of her famous tamaladas.

For step-by-step instructions on how to throw your own tamalada, click here.

The tamalada nourishes your soul, and it nourishes your identity. The learning of the cultural history of tamales is kept alive with that.

Ellen Riojas Clark

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