This season, get in the holiday spirit with a tamalada—a tamale-making party that gets everyone involved in preparing this traditional Mexican Christmas food. Hosting a tamalada is a great way to have tamales for the holidays without having to do all the work yourself. Plus it's a great opportunity to visit with friends and family while you work. Genius!

By Margaret Curry

Tamales are a traditional Christmastime treat for many Mexican families; they've been served for centuries as part of the traditional Christian celebration of Las Posada, commemorating Mary and Joseph's search for shelter before the birth of Jesus. They're a great food to make for holiday entertaining because they're portable, easy to store, and inexpensive to make for large gatherings.

While they’re worth the effort, homemade tamales require time and patience—so the more people on hand to assemble, the easier the task will be. Gather friends and family for a tamalada—tamale-making party—before Christmas, and let each participant go home with tamales as a Christmas gift. We've collected our favorite tamale recipes, along with food and drinks to serve guests during your tamalada.

Gather Tamale Ingredients

Three things are essential when making tamales: dried cornhusks, lard, and masa harina, which is a traditional Mexican corn flour made from dried corn dough. Look for cornhusks and masa harina in the Mexican section of large supermarkets or at your local Mexican food store.

The cornhusks are used for shaping and wrapping the tamale fillings into neat little packages while they cook, but are discarded before the tamales are eaten.

Lard is the traditional fat used in Mexican cooking. If you're not a fan, you can use vegetable shortening.

Finally, masa harina is a processed corn flour. It's often used to make corn tortillas, tortilla chips, and other Mexican specialties.

Prep Your Space

The first step to throwing a tamale party is to set up enough space to make the tamales. Most tamaladas use a long table (or multiple tables) to create an assembly line. Review our helpful guide on how to make tamales so you're prepared to teach your guests. Some tamaladas give each guest a specific step in the tamale-making directions, but others let each guest make tamales of their chosen flavor from start to finish. If you've never thrown a talamada before, try out a few methods to find what works best for you and your guests.

Prep Your Ingredients

As the host, making the masa dough along with softening the cornhusks is something you should do ahead of time. Purchased cornhusks are brittle and need to be softened so they won’t tear or crack when assembling the tamales. Soak the husks in hot water by weighing them down with a heatproof plate or pie plate. Since you'll be prepping the main ingredients, ask your guests to bring the fillings and treats. Share our favorite filling recipes with guests, and read below for suggested snacks and drinks for guests to bring.

Editor's Tip: The masa dough is ready to be used when a small ball will float in a glass full of water.

Colorful DIY Yarn Banner

Holiday party decorations are always in style this time of year, but since you're going to be doing a fair amount of prep work for the tamales, keep the decor simple and easy. Create a quick decoration for your tamalada with this DIY party craft. We love the bold colors in this banner made of yarn, but you can customize your DIY banner to match your holiday decorations or use traditional Christmas colors. Plus, you can finish this in just a few minutes—or arm the kids with yarn and string and put them on decoration duty!

Get the instructions!

Mini Piñatas Banner

Tamalada decorations should be simple and easy like these string, crepe paper, and cardboard mini piñatas. Reuse cardboard toilet paper rolls in this fun craft or use paper cups as the base for the decoration. Don't worry if you forgot to pick up an advent calendar this year—you can make this craft or try this cookie advent calendar for just $10.

Provide Snacks

Tamale-making isn't a quick activity, so there's lots of time for visiting with friends and family during your tamalada. Set out a snack table with tasty, easy-to-hold finger foods—like these pork empanadas—to keep your guests' stamina up throughout the party. We also recommend a make-your-own nacho or taco bar—use our favorite nacho recipes and favorite taco recipes for inspiration. Whichever party food you pick, try a new topping and wow your guests with this smoky pineapple guacamole.

This glazed churro recipe can be found as part of our 14 Amazing Mexican Desserts collection.

Set Out Sweets

No party is complete without sweets on your snack table. Try these amazing Mexican-inspired desserts, all easy to eat with little to no mess. If you like donuts, you'll love these buñuelos with your coffee. Or try this yummy sopapilla cheescake bar recipe. We also love these easy-to-eat huachibolas (jam and cream cheese rolls).

Click the image for directions on making a party-worthy margarita bar.

Serve Adult Beverages

Let your guests relax with an adult beverage that fits the Mexican flavors already on the table. You can go for classics like maragaritas and sangria, or try a new favorite like this salty cocktail or this Horchata Cinnamon and Rum milk-based cocktail. Take a peek through our Mexican-inspired drink recipes for more ideas. If you prefer frozen margaritas, make them ahead of the party so you have one less thing to worry about day-of. Remember: Having your guests bring the treats and drinks can also free up valuable cooking space in your kitchen for more tamales!

For a cold, refreshing drink, try a new flavor of agua fresca.

Festive Nonalcoholic Drinks

Offer nonalcoholic drinks that pair well with Mexican flavors in the food. Our favorite is berry atole, which can be served hot or cold but pairs well with the aromas (and tastes!) of tamales. If you're celebrating in a cold climate, serve warm drinks at your tamalada. Try the traditional Mexican Hot Chocolate, or give it a twist with the Chocolate and Banana champurrado. If the weather is warm and you're hosting your tamalada outside—or the hard work of tamale-making has you sweating!—add multiple flavors of agua fresca to your drinks table.

Try one of our free downloadable coloring pages.

Keep Kids Busy

Tamaladas are all about passing on the tradition of tamale-making to the next generation. The youngest members of a tamalada are often placed in charge of soaking cornhusks and washing the husks to remove dirt and dust after soaking. Make additional plans for the younger guests who may need a break from the food preparations. Have movies and activities ready to entertain children at a tamalada, including these free printable Christmas coloring pages or these complex geometric coloring pages. It the weather is nice, send the kids outdoors with these outdoor party games and activities.

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