Woman’s Promise Creates Christmas Tradition

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HARLINGEN – It’s a family Christmas tradition dating back to World War II. A Harlingen woman is keeping it alive by dedicating a room in her home to an extensive nativity scene.

The tradition started years ago when Genoveba Alvarez made a promise to God in exchange for her brothers’ safe return from war.

“If the baby Jesus helps them to come back in good health, and everything, I will celebrate his birthday every 24th of December,” Leonila Alvarez explained.

The men did come back safely. So Alvarez kept her end of the bargain.

Leonila Alvarez said her aunt-in-law began creating elaborate nativity scenes.

“It was a commitment, a faith commitment I say. Oh, it was so beautiful. I fell in love with everything,” she said.

Alvarez decided to continue the tradition from her own Harlingen home. She now has more than 300 pieces that represent family and friends. Some she purchased, some were given to her. Her first nativity set has a special place in her heart.

“They have a lot of figurines, and I love them and mother say get the stuff you need and I will pay for it. So the first nativity, my mother bought it for me,” she said.

The most important piece is the baby Jesus. He isn’t placed in the manger until Christmas Eve.

“We sing and pray and then the children that are here. They carry the baby Jesus around to everybody and everybody is supposed to make the sign of the cross or kiss his feet,” she said.

As the figurines in the nativity continue to grow, so does the number of family and friends that join to watch the enchanting Christmas Eve.


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