Non-white Christmas

René Lavan and Julie Gonzalo are the rum in the Christmas with the Kranks eggnog, says Kiko Martinez, who interviewed the Cuban and Argentinean up-and-coming stars about their holiday experiences.

René Lavan and Julie Gonzalo give 'Kranks' a little Latin flavor

Think of actors René Lavan and Julie Gonzalo as the shots of rum in the eggnog. Raised in communist Cuba until age 12, young Lavan didn't sing carols by the fire, hang a stocking on the mantel, or even put out cookies and milk for Santa Claus the night before Christmas. "I never knew who he was as a kid," Lavan told the Current via phone from Miami. "My childhood in Cuba was in the '70s under a dictatorship. The grip was a lot stronger. We didn't have the traditions there that we do here."

Now Lavan, 36, doesn't have to ask who Santa Claus is anymore. It's usually Lavan himself, dressed in a jolly red suit for his 5- and 6-year-old niece and nephew. "We carry the traditions now." Lavan goes home to Miami every year for the holidays. "We roast the pig in the back yard, and at 12:01 a.m., because we're Latinos and can't wait for the next day, we do a big gift exchange and share time with the family."

Gonzalo, 23, also calls Miami her home. Until she was 8, she lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Christmas was more typical than Lavan's life of limitations - just a bit warmer. "Christmas was in the summer," said Gonzalo. "I've never had a white Christmas or even a cold one."

Just in time for the holidays, Lavan and Gonzalo star in Christmas with the Kranks, a comedy that follows the trials of Luther and Nora Krank (Tim Allen and Jaime Lee Curtis), a couple who decides to save money by going on a Caribbean cruise instead of celebrating the Yuletide season. Gonzalo plays the Krank's daughter, Blair, who inspires Luther's unconventional plan when she leaves home for the first time to join the Peace Corps. Without Blair, Luther doesn't see a reason to go through the traditional and expensive customs. But when Blair calls up at the last minute and tells her parents that she is coming home for Christmas with her new boyfriend Enrique, played by Lavan, the Kranks have less than enough time to deliver Christmas before their baby girl comes home to disappointment and, more importantly, no honey-glazed ham.

"The film is an all-American white Christmas but with a little Latino flare," Lavan said. For Lavan and Gonzalo, Christmas with the Kranks is one of the best Christmas gifts they've received - although they still have something special on their wish lists for this year. "With everything so crazy in this county, I hope that we can come together as a nation," Lavan said. "I came to this country for freedom. I hope that we are able to heal a lot of the wounds that we have."

Gonzalo's request is a bit more traditional, but also unwrapable: "I just want to see snow. This is definitely the goal this Christmas. The first thing I am going to do is lie down and do one of those snow angels."

By Kiko Martinez

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