We played that game for five Christmases, until Cruz and his family decided to spend the holidays in Mexico and there were no more tamales for us. It was such a letdown that I eventually took matters into my own hands. Two years ago, while working on a book about Asian dumplings, I realized that sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves, a food found throughout Asia, is like a tamale. So, for my family's Christmas Eve dinner, I made a batch of _ kao tom padt_, Thai rice packets that are a traditional gift for religious ceremonies. I enriched the rice with coconut cream and hid a piece of banana in the center; then I tied each packet with a banana leaf ribbon. At dinner, the kao tom padt were eaten in a flash, the discarded leaves left piled on the table like used gift wrap. Sure, such snacks are more typically served in many Asian homes during the Lunar New Year, but when you've created such perfect packages, it's hard to resist playing Santa Claus.