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'It's brought all of us closer' | Making tamales, a holiday tradition in Texas

A family recipe unites a family while allowing them to spread the holiday spirit.

BELTON, Texas — In Texas, there's nothing quite like the magic of Christmas but it's made even better with tamales, a staple around this time of year.

"When she called me I was like, you know, when she asked me, 'would you like to make Tamales,' I was like, 'girl, please, I have never done this before..' and she said me either, and so I was like, 'okay,'" laughed Terrie Easley.

During the holidays, Easley can be found in the kitchen of her cousin, Rachel Greenhaw, who made that phone call nearly three years ago.

"I thought, maybe, just maybe, we could try it," Greenhaw said when remembering the first year of making tamales in her kitchen. "They turned out pretty good, a little big, but still good."

Easley and Greenhaw can be found rolling thousands of tamales ahead of Christmas this year and they aren't done, pledging whoever signs up and asks for some via their Facebook page, they will deliver them all next week.

"We were overwhelmed with 40 dozen in three days when we first started," they both tell 6 News. "We went from that to, last month, 215 dozen and right now we have 208 dozen before Christmas."

But to understand this moment and why these women are so giving with their time and energy to whip up a Texas favorite, you have to get to know the person who inspired them both, especially Greenhaw.

"It's been almost 13 years but it feels like yesterday," Greenhaw said, crying, as she spoke of her mother, Patricia. "Every year at Christmas, usually a week before, we would do tamales and chili and all of her coworkers and our friends would come and do a Christmas thing, she just loved to cook."

The pain of losing her mom is still painful but something special has happened in the three years since she dusted off the pots and decided to make Patricia's recipe for others to try.

Credit: Rachel Greenhaw
Rachel sits with her mom, Patricia, during a BBQ fundraiser

"It's brought all of us closer, I mean, my daughter knew Rachel and her son Brandon but not like we hang out now all the time, so," Easley said.

Both women laugh about it now and talk about how family can get along but they are both so grateful for the opportunity a simple tamale has afforded them.

"It means a lot, we did everything together and I mean everything," Greenhaw said while talking about the matriarch of her family. "We did barbeques cookoffs, we catered, and we were always having some family get together and we just lived in our kitchen."

In the three years since this all began for both of them, they said they are built in best friends and the opportunity to spread the love of Patricia with every tamale they roll, that's special for them. While it's a lot of work, they wouldn't trade it for anything else.

Just last year during the height of the pandemic, the orders for tamales came pouring in and by their count, they did nearly 600 dozen of them between Thanksgiving, Christmas and right after the New Year.

"We are very grateful because we never had a clue that it would turn out like this," Easley said. "We are probably going to surpass that this time."

For both, they know the power the tamale has brought to their family and they said it's made them stronger together. When asked what it would mean to them if they knew their tamales would do the same for another family, it was hard to fathom but welcomed.

"That would be awesome," they said. "It would probably tug at the heart strings, and it would be, I don't know, speechless I guess knowing that tamales would actually do that for somebody and bring a family back together, I mean, it has for us, so why not someone else."

If you would like to order your Christmas tamales for delivery next week, you have to pre-order them by the night of Friday, December 10. Orders must be placed on their Facebook page, TAMALES, here