Dec 4, 2018

Family Traditions


Background: I grew up in the small town of Scranton, Pennsylvania-- where there is a church or bar on every corner. My mother's side of the family was always known for being incredibly close-knit and Catholic while my father comes from a distant family which he rarely speaks of along with any personal religious beliefs. Although my mother grew up Catholic she never pushed myself or my siblings to belong to a specific group or practice. This flexibility created a generation where we forged our own traditions and along with that, beliefs. I have learned to celebrate Christmas as the commercialized holiday where Santa is the true hero. Although the religious undertones shifted with my generation, my grandma and her siblings still attend mass and put mangers under their tree, my mom and I on the other-hand consider December 25th our annual family reunion or Thanksgiving part two thanks to the amount of food we make.


The weekend following Thanksgiving is a tradition I hope to one day add my own family to. From Friday morning to Sunday evening we decorate the house, cut down our Christmas tree and begin our cookie baking. My grandmother, mother, sister and myself are responsible for baking 14 different cookie types-- chocolate chip, white macadamia nut, sugar and peanut butter are my favorites. We each have our own monogrammed aprons that are only to be used in the sacred cookie baking ritual. My grandpa, dad and brother are to decorate the outside of the house with a multitude of lights so blinding you can see their house from a mile away. The midpoint in December we come home for another round of baking.


My grandpa and dad prepare our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners. On the Eve (which also serves as my mom's birthday) we usually have handmade personal pizzas (we have every topping imaginable) along with shrimp, lobster and clams, butter-garlic chicken, risotto and broccoli. Each Christmas Eve my grandma gives us two gifts, one are matching Christmas pajamas. She gets a pair for all of the grandchildren and she arranges us by the tree in her solarium for her "Happy New Year" card. The second was usually one of our top gifts and she always slyly pretends to not have know we REALLY wanted the item.


On Christmas Day we eat our meal at 2 o'clock pm promptly which consists of: turkey, ham, lasagna, meatballs, stuffing, mashed potatoes, asparagus, rutabaga, yams, green beans casserole and mac and cheese. The leftovers serve as the beginning of our Christmas night buffet. After we finish our 2 o'clock pm dinner we start organizing the house for the rest of our family. We have roughly 80 people filter though out the house on Christmas night. We eat, drink, play games, watch football and laugh a LOT. It is a mad house but it is a house of love and one in which anyone can feel welcome. My friends sometimes even leave their relatives on Christmas night for one of my grandma's signature peppermint chocolate martinis.


I hope to continue each tradition my family has started and continue to modify what we do as new generations come in. Christmas is a time of year where all the doubts and stresses you feared during the year melt away and you are surrounded by love, light and warmth. These celebrations I only near and dear to my heart and give deep appreciation to what matters most in this world.


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  • Soup Makes the Holiday Many of my family traditions are centered around the holiday season. The holiday season, particularly Christmas and New Year’s Day are holidays that prompt my family to engage in activities that connect us back to the culture and traditions of our ancestors. I come from a very multicultural family, but I was raised by my mother who is Colombian-American. It is the Colombian culture that shines the most during the holiday season. For us, the holiday season is centered around food. In the Hispanic culture, as in many cultures, food acts as a way of bringing family together and connecting with our culture. Although, we live in America and by birth are part of the American culture, keeping the Colombian culture alive by cooking Colombian food is a fundamental part of any holiday season for my family. Every New Year’s Eve, my mother makes a delicious soup called ajiaco , a thick chicken a potato soup mixed in with heavy cream and capers and seasoned with a special herb we call guascas . Guascas is an incredible herb that is essential to Andean cooking and is the highlight of the ajiaco soup which is commonly made by many Bogotános, those who hail from the capital city. It is very special for our family because we only eat it once a year. It is a time for us to sit down and enjoy each other’s company and eat until we cannot eat anymore. The topic of conversation around the dinner table usually is about family tradition and who passed what on to the next generation. My grandmother usually talks about the way her mother made the soup and how it was slightly different than how she made the soup. Then my mother, comments on how she makes the soup a bit different than her mother. My mother is the designated soup maker during the holiday season, but the role is slowly switching to my older sister who loves making the soup with her own unique contemporary twist. The beauty of this soup is that it is what connects us all to the home of our ancestors but showcases the change throughout the generations and cultures. We are able to add individuality to it without losing its origins, which I think the perfect metaphor for immigrant families passing down the traditions of their original culture to those offspring that have now assimilated into the new culture.
  • Algeria is one of the most famous countries that is known for it's rich folklore and food rituals which appear specially in the festive seasons . Actually Algeria has two main religious celebrations and two other main national celebrations. First of all , as Muslims people in Algeria celebrate two bairms (Turkish word to express celebration ) .The first one is lesser bairam that marks the end of the holy Islamic month "Ramadan" after 29 or 30 days of fasting the first of Shawwal is considered as the Eid day .In fact before the main day, women have to start preparing several kinds of traditional sweets such as Baklava,cake,Qaryush and so many other wonderful desserts . In addition to that, children buy new clothes and girls put henna in their Hands as a kind of Accessories. In the main day men wake up early and go to the mosques and start cheering and saying holy words with a very amazing sound. Then ,they have both Eid sermon and prayer after this they get out and start congratulate each other .The most beautiful thing is Forgiveness and happiness which Spread all over the Muslims . On top of that this celebration is a chance for families to be together again and to have fun. I really adore lesser bairam because I have the opportunity to be with my family and to learn the meaning of togetherness. Secondly , the greater bairam which is celebrated 70 days later at the end of the Islamic year .In fact this later is similar to the first some how ,Muslims start usually their day by going to the mosques doing the same thing as lesser bairam but this time we have shorter sermon .After that, people used to wait until imam slaughters his sheep following our prophet Ibrahim peace be upon him and they start doing the same,absolutely greater bairam is a real occasion to feed the poor and to achieve the meaning of the Union and togetherness. As I have mentioned earlier that Algeria has two other kind of celebrations which are national. foremost , independence day which celebrated the day that Algeria became an independent nation from France in that day the Algerian Associations ,Scouts and Republican Guard organize some social activities and folklore Shows which show that Algeria is an independent nation which has it's own Customs and traditions and it is an opportunity to remember Martyrs who were martyred in the liberation revolution and Honoring their families and of course the mujahedeen who are still alive without forgetting to define the meaning of the independence day to the new generation and showing them some documentaries about the revolution. Next, we have the anniversary of the Algerian revolution and it is nearly has the same foundations but this latter represent the beginning of the battle between Algeria and the French occupier for the land this revolution lasted seven and a half years it has started the first of November 1954 and finished the fifth July 1962 which is the independence day . Eventually, those four celebrations "lesser bairam , greater bairam , independence day and the anniversary of the Algerian revolution marks the Algerian identification ,togetherness , union,nationality and makes me feel belonging and Warm up.
  • I am from a small town outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I grew up surrounded by family, and family remains an important part of my life now. I believe rituals are a large part of what continues to bring my family close together, for as we grow older and life gets busy, the celebrations and traditions that we hold force us to take time to spend with one another. Seeing as Christmas is right around the corner (my family celebrates Christmas), a few family traditions surrounding the holiday were the first that came to mind. One tradition I want to carry on in my own life is called “Sips”. At this gathering, about 100 members of my extended family get together and munch on appetizers like shrimp, cheese, crackers and dips. Although the food is always delicious, my favorite part about this tradition is that we all gather around a piano and carol together. We each get a song book and take turns shouting out the number of the song we want to sing. It is pretty incredible to me that this large of a family is still able to get together once a year and it is always one of the most joyful nights in my year. Another Christmas tradition I would like to carry on is our famous Christmas morning breakfast. While many people on Christmas morning have decadent meals, we have carried the tradition of having mini boxes of cereal. I come from a large family myself and on Christmas morning, it was always too difficult to make a fancy meal (because us kids were awake before the crack of dawn – anticipating the presents to come…), so my mom reverted to mini boxes of cereal – cheap, and easy! I want to carry this tradition on as it reminds me of my family and the love I have for them. Although having a bigger family can often result in dysfunction, I am so grateful for what I have and who I have been stuck with to call family.