An old fashioned family Christmas party

St. Francis is just days away from holding its first-ever tamalada—an old South Texas tradition of gathering with friends and family to make tamales for the holidays!

This inaugural gathering will actually be more of a class, to learn tamal-making from members

of Colectivo Cultural, a group formed by a local family that loves to share its culinary heritage.

Even though about a dozen St. Francis parishioners have signed up to pay fees for the class, all are

welcome to come and hear about the traditions and techniques of making the savory dish that is always popular, especially during the holidays. The class is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, December 5, in the parish hall.

While tamales might seem distinct to this region, they really have a timeless, universal quality. Historians have said traveling warriors of the Aztec, Mayan, and other early civilians would carry food similar to today’s tamales that could be eaten hot or cold.

In San Antonio, tamales are made with a corn based dough called masa, and wrapped in a paper-like corn husk, or shuck. They are typically filled with pork, but can also have a filling of beans, jalapeño flavored cheese, or even sweetened fruit. They can be made with rich ingredients or with healthier items such as olive oil and tofu. During the holidays, some San Antonians stand in line for hours in order to have homemade tamales for Christmas!

There also are other kinds of tamales elsewhere in the world. Guatemalans serve tamales negras

as a Christmas specialty. The “black tamales” are filled with a chocolate-based sauce with dried

fruits and nuts. In the Philippines, tamales are rice-based delicacies with chicken, shrimp, peppers,

onions, and other things, wrapped in banana leaves.

The other universal element of the South Texas tamalada is the opportunity to chat, share stories, listen to music, and spend time together, while spreading the masa and wrapping the tamales to prepare them to be steamed. In other words, an opportunity for what we like to call “fellowship”!

If there’s enough interest, we could make our tamalada an annual event. Before long, it may be possible for everyone at St. Francis to order custom-made, homestyle tamales prepared with our own special recipes to enjoy for the holidays. It might even generate a little extra income for our parish! It’s not too late to sign up for the hands-on portion of the class! Get your $35 in before November 30 and join in, or just plan to come watch for free. For more information on the tamalada, contact Susan Correa (

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