Tamales is one of the favorite dishes in Panamanian homes. It is eaten throughout the year, specially during Christmas and New Year. Without tamales on the table for Christmas Eve and New Year dinner the festivities are incomplete. At all!
For those of you who are not familiar with this ubiquitous Latin American dish, let me explain that a tamal is a traditional Mesoamerican dish made of masa or dough (starchy, and usually corn-based), which is steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. The wrapping is discarded before eating.
Tamales can be filled with meats (pork or chicken), vegetables, chiles, or any other preparation according to taste, and both the filling and the cooking liquid may be seasoned. It is a dish preferred by most Latinos South of the Rio Grande, all the way to the Patagonia in Argentina. However, it is specifically popular in Mexico and Middle America.
For Christmas we had tamales on our table. They just had to be there, if we were to have a real Christmas Eve dinner. It is the way it is. It is the way we were brought up. For sure, there will be tamales on our dining table for New Year as well.