Invisible Holiday Traditions At America’s Landmark Resort

San Diego's stunningly beautiful Victorian Hotel del Coronado numbers among American historic landmarks. Presidents and royalty have stayed at "the Del": and, during the summer and Christmas holidays, families book rooms and meal reservations for years in advance. Eduardo Ramirez, Senior worked at the Hotel del Coronado for more than sixty years, grudgingly retiring from his position as a chef only after his third heart attack made more work physically impossible. Eduardo, Senior worked every Christmas for more than sixty years, preparing sumptuous holiday feats for hundreds of American families while la senora Ramirez made exquisite holiday foods for the family at home.

This year, the tradition persists, but it has evolved. This year, Eduardito, "Little Eddie," a full-time student at Harvard, will fly home to take his father's place in Hotel del Coronado's sprawling kitchens. This year, the Ramirez family will dine with the Del's guests, sharing holiday cheer and tidings of great joy. Next year, Little Eddie will attend medical school.

"All those years," Eddie says, "I resented my father being away from home on Christmas Day. The other kids had their fathers home, and mine had to work. The way I saw it, my father was killing himself to wait on all the rich people. Now, though, I see what has happened because of all mi padre's hard work. I feel humbled and very grateful."

Across North America, Europe, and Australia, hundreds of thousands of seasonal workers seize Christmas opportunities to improve their own and their families' conditions. Especially in catering and the hospitality industries, as some families travel over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house, many families go to work serving them.

Eddie recites a few staggering statistics about the Hotel del Coronado, implying that they generalize to fine dining facilities around the Christian world. "Christmas in hospitality restaurants and catering probably is the equivalent of Black Friday in retail," he says. "In our biggest dining room, we have 350 tables; 90% of them will seat twelve people. All of those tables will ˜turn over' a dozen times on Christmas Day. That translates to more than 4200 meals. At an average of $75(US) per diner, the Hotel takes-in $315, 000." Computing the decimal points, Eddie shows why he will go to medical school. "Servers, therefore, make a cool $50,000 among them."

His breathing issuing through his lips, Eddie concludes, "Yeah, I would say it's worth it. My education is the proof."

Consuelita Rodriguez, a UCLA undergraduate and a third-generation "Del" worker, wholeheartedly agrees. Pointing to the skating pond, Christmas carolers in their Victorian garb, and seventy-degree sunshine bathing the Pacific Ocean, "Isn't it the best of all worlds?" she asks rhetorically. "I will bring my family for Christmas," she declares, changing a queen-sized bed in record time. "My grandmother and mother did this so that I could have UCLA. I do it, in part, for my daughters yet to come." Pausing a moment, she adds, "It just would not be Christmas if I were not here." Holding a healthy bundle of bills, ˜Suela says wistfully, "These tips represent my future¦and my family's," she emphasizes.