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Walking into my grandmother's house, I gaze at the Christmas tree, sparkling lights winding their way to the peak where a silver star adorns the top branch of the petit pine. Beneath, is a mini lit-up Christmas village, with a fragile train chugging its way through the town and winding through the snow-coated cottages. My grandmother has arranged this small village for nearly fifty years, since she married my grandfather. This year is no different; the same train whistles. I hear my aunt's dog bark a cheerful “hello.” Nat King Cole’s, silky tone is singing “The Christmas Song” alongside the joyful chorus of voices from my aunts and uncles. I sigh blissfully. I breath in the sweet, spicy smell of the Ponche. The list of ingredients gallop through my mind: cinnamon, cider, cloves, coconut, pineapple, papaya…

Just this past autumn, my grandmother taught me the recipe, patiently helping me prepare it, and write down what had been locked away in her mind. My grandmother greets me at the door, giving me a hug, and smiling, the words spilling out of her mouth soft, smooth and sweet, “Feliz Navidad!” She proceeds to present me with the Ponche, and I gladly take it, daintily slurping the flavorful drink: spices, apples and raisins fill my mouth. The cup is warm to the touch; heat is radiating off the white ceramic mug and filling my heart with happiness.

Ponche Navideño

Serves 7


1 medium Granny Smith apple
1 small Gala apple
1 ½ cups (350g) papaya (any variety)
1 ½ cups (350g) pineapple
1 baby Thai coconut
9 pitted prunes
½ cup (115g) raisins
4 cups (1 litre) water
4 cups (1 litre) apple cider
3 medium cinnamon sticks
3 cloves
4 allspice berries
½ cup (115g) raw sugar


  1. Dice the apples, papaya and the pineapple into small cubes. Place them in a large pot.
  2. Have an adult open the coconut. Empty the juice into a separate glass. (You will not need it in this recipe.) Scoop away the coconut flesh with a spoon. Place the coconut in the pot.
  3. Cut the pitted prunes in half. Place them in the pot, and add the raisins.
  4. Pour the apple cider and the water into the pot. Put in the cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Pour in the sugar.
  5. Set on the stove with medium heat until it boils. Lower the flame and simmer for 18-20 minutes.
  6. Serve hot.

Catherine Gruen Ponche Navideño
Catherine Gruen, 10
Chino Hills, California