The LA Times has a great article about the importance of tamles and tamale making in the Latino cutlure. Sure tamales are delicious and come around during Christmas, but for many Hispanic families, that is just one part of it.
The other side is the family getting together and making tamles factory style, preping the masa, putting the masa into the corn husks and wrapping them and finally cooking them.
It is a tradition that many still do to this day.
Read more at the LA Times
Also for a nice rundown on how to make tamales, visit What's Cooking America
And if you find yourself in the OC anc need some tamales, check out these fine places.