La Noche Buena

Do you have fond memories from your childhood holiday traditions?

of course, you do.

We all do.


Despite the specifics of how we began, and of our childhood and growing up, if we are blessed to have had a childhood, blessed to be born in a free country, and blessed to have had a family, chances are we’ve lots to be grateful for.

And not that everyone has all those things but, chances are, everyone reading this does.


Having said this, I want to talk today about the most important blessings we can bestow on our kids and grandkids this holiday season.

In this blog, I will share the 7 most valuable gifts we can give them.

But first, a fond and funny memory from my own childhood.


My father was a pig farmer.

Our pig farm was in the middle of what is now the Carrollwood Village area on Casey Road.

They were building those communities all around us. My dad was the pig man of Carrollwood.


Anyway, Noche Buena celebration (Christmas Eve) is a big celebration for Cuban American families, which we were.

Black beans and rice, yucca, and the ceremonial pernil (Cuban Roast pork) that is the center piece of every proper Noche Buena meal are a great memory of Christmas.

We would have it all, and friends and family would be over for the grand event.


I remember when I was like sixish and my sister four or five, we would look at each other and whisper, “we’re rich again”…

and a few months later over rice and fried egg, “we’re poor again”.


Truth is, as is often the case with memories, I am not sure if that happened often or just once, but it was emotionally charged enough, and funny enough when my sis and I discussed it later, that we do remember it fondly.


There were many parts of our story and memories that more acutely reflect that we struggled with money when I was a kid.

But, that part of the story is less relevant than the rest- particularly to the point of this blog.


As I teach at my academy, life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.

I am grateful that a generation later, we can always enjoy meat- and choose only grass-fed beef because it’s healthier.

I’m grateful that, relatively speaking, my children have never known what it’s like to go without.


Chances are very good that if you’re reading this, you have come a long way too.


The most important blessings we give our kids, however, are not financial. So, even though I am proud and grateful for how far I’ve come in that way, I’m more so and work even harder to be the best father I can in all the others…

The most important things we can do for those we love, and the most important areas in which we need to improve as fathers, mothers, grandparents, and family, are far deeper than that.

Much more than any material thing we can wrap, our kids need these 7 gifts from us:

1. Unconditional Love: the most important blessing we can give our kids is the knowledge that we love them no matter what- and that we believe in them. We should model patience, let them know they’ll make mistakes, and teach them how to learn from these to grow.

2. Character: we need to raise them with character traits that will afford them positive, productive, and happy adult lives. Amongst the important character traits we need to develop are Confidence and commitment, courage, integrity, perseverance, humility and patience, self-reliance, and a willingness to learn.

3. Preparation: we should prepare them to live, and to survive and thrive in any situation.

4. Leadership: raise them to be leaders, not followers.

5. Respect: we should teach them to respect themselves and others; begin modeling respect by showing it to them and expecting it from them, and by demonstrating respect to others.

6. Hunger: a very succesful mentor of mine, Dean Graziosi, recently told me that this is the only thing he worries about for his children. He too came from humble beginnings and had to struggle for everything he’s ever had; but has accomplished amazing things.

He told me that he’d never even flown on an airplane until his late thirties, nor first class until his late thirties; and that his kids have never flown commercial because he has a private jet… he told me this not to brag but to really drive home the fact that they’d had things kind of easy- never knowing what it is to struggle.

I think many of us can relate to the story and the worry… well, not the personal jet part. laughing but that we struggled more than our kids have.

It’s what we want.

       But the point Dean was making is that his kids do great in school and have great character, but he worries sometimes about their hunger- the drive that gets us going and fuels us to make things happen.

We must make sure we help our kids develop this blessing too

7. Memories: and, wherein we should deliberately be developing these seven traits all throughout the year, as much and as consistently as possible, so that our kids may be blessed with them as they grow into adults, memories are the 7th blessing, and one I think we are uniquely postured to give around this season. Let us make holiday memories our kids will fondly remember, and/or even traditions they’ll want to maintain.

A couple of final thoughts about memories:

  • Very good or very bad ones can be made right now. Patience, grace, and respect need to be especially focused to ensure the prior. This is not a time to be stressed. Commercialism isn’t the reason for the season. Make some great memories.
  • These of course are made all year too. More than any material success, I hope I did and do better in how I create memories for my kids, and grandkids too. I want their memories to be happy, and full of reference points that develop the other six blessings…


There should be fun ones too.

    This is Triton (my grandson) poised to “hop on pop” yesterday morning; one of the great memory traditions we have together over his years.


In closing, and in transparency, I was only thinking in my role as father/grandfather when I wrote this blog and the 7 blessings.

But, probably not coincidentally, they are also 7 things we do at my school.

It is your calling to give them to your kids; but we can help you.


Call 813-948-4844, register at or just reply to this email. We’ll schedule you to start your 2 week trial and orientation after the holiday break.

    Give a gift this season that will positively affect the rest of your child’s life.

And you can train with them too!

All our classes are for the whole family!



Prepare To Live & Empower To Lead!

Grand Master Stephen J. Del Castillo

Author, MBA & 7th Degree Blackbelt

Founder & Chief Master Instructor,

Krav Maga Martial Arts

Official KMMA Facebook Page

EmPOWERing Fathers