Christmas Eve

East LA Eatery Prepares Tamales, A Holiday Menu Tradition for Many

Liliana's in East LA expects to sell around 250,000 tamales over the course of the holiday.

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If you follow the line outside Tamales Liliana's in East Los Angeles, you'll see an assembly line of people preparing orders, and the kitchen where tamales get made.

The food is a holiday menu must for many families around Christmas.

"Basically I take orders for my family and friends," said Grace Garcia, a Monterey Park resident.

Customers wait in the rain outside Liliana's, a restaurant in East LA, to get their holiday tamales.

Last year the public was advised to reconsider holding large gatherings, because of the pandemic. Customers still bought tamales to share with loved ones, but they weren't eaten together.

"We left them at the door," said Whittier resident Aurora Ballesteros. "They picked them up."

This year, some are gathering once more.

"They've already called me during the week to make sure everything's on line," said Joe Ballesteros. "We're going to do this. We're going to gather."

Tamales will be the centerpiece of their Christmas Eve meal.

Toni Guinyard/NBCLA
Employees at Liliana's in East LA prepare tamales on Christmas Eve 2021.

"I am getting three dozen green, one red and two dozen green chili and cheese — and I never leave here without a large champurrado," Aurora said. "That is the best."

Garcia was also looking forward to her order.

"I have six corn, six sweet pineapple and two dozen pork and two dozen of the chicken," she said.

Employees at Liliana's in East LA prepare tamales on Christmas Eve 2021.

The restaurant expects to sell around 250,000 during the holiday, and nothing can kill the tradition -- including the rain.

The weather is the main challenge this year. Customers say they simply want to get their tamales, get home, eat them and relax.

Employees at Liliana's in East LA wheel out pots full of tamale-making materials on Christmas Eve 2021.

For some, tamales on the table are a tradition, while for others, it's a new experience.

"We're islanders, so we’re very open to different cultures, food and everything," said first-time customer Tamara Toban.

Her 12-year-old daughter, Tamia Toban, added "We get to do something different every year for Christmas. And this is our first time having tamales for Christmas."

Mom held tight to her twins while dad stood in line, patiently waiting to join so many others hungry to add tamales to the holiday dinner table.

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