Dec 13, 2018

Family traditions



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.

New Posts
  • 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.
  • As the Holiday season commences, the family rituals that were part of my childhood remain with me. I grew up in Philadelphia with a small immediate family – my father had died suddenly when my mother was pregnant with me, and I was a surprise baby. Not only was my mother was much older, but she had thought she could not conceive again. My only sibling born 21 years before me. As a young child my mother, grandmother and I lived together and when my grandmother passed, my brother returned home after a divorce. My father was an Italian-American and my mother was not. She converted to Catholicism so that she could be part of the Italian family which at that time still resisted those that were not also Italian. There were many traditions in our family that was embedded in Italian-American culture. All the brothers and their children and their children would come together for loud, love filled, food-centric gatherings. Religion was important, and church attendance on Christmas Eve was mandatory. The feast on the 12 fishes on Christmas Eve was a tradition, where smelts, calamari, scungilli, baccala and other fishes were served at My aunt and Uncle’s house, and they called it an open-house. When my uncle passed away, we saw a change in traditions. While our extended family Christmas Eve feast ended, our smaller immediate family began a new Christmas Eve tradition, We altered the 12 fishes to become more to our tastes. Shrimp and crabs became staples. We would also serve some unusual items each Christmas Eve and we would all join in the cooking. One year it was a whole pig which we could not eat after looking at the poor thing. Another year was buffalo tacos. Christmas Eve was held at my mother’s home and grew each year – our Jewish friends and family joined us and new friends and family as well. We always would open one present on Christmas Eve, and would wait until Christmas day for the rest. We always bought a new ornament for the tree. Christmas day was always at our house, and we served escarole soup, ravioli, meatballs and sausage. Our desserts would always include a pumpkin pie with my cousin’s recipe, and my mother’s famous Jewish Apple cake, and eventually my signature dish pumpkin crème brule. We shared lots of family time going to purchase our food, going to the Italian market for cheeses and sausage, then the Italian store for our beloved marinated mozzarella, and then to a local bakery, Villari’s for their homemade bread. One of our favorite activities was annual Christmas cookie baking, when my mother and I would bake 20-30 dozen cookies to share as Christmas presents and just enjoy. The whole family would pass through the kitchen at some point, helping and enjoying the fresh cookies. We always put a tree up about 2 weeks before Christmas and wrapped all our presents under the artificial tree. The presents that arrived from Santa were not wrapped. As I grew older and married, I realized that everyone did the holidays differently. In my husband’s family, all the presents came wrapped and a live tree was expected. We also began having a live tree. When I had my child, we joyously included him in our rituals, and he got an ornament each year, picked out our live tree and joined us in baking and eating Christmas cookies. We made sure to make tins of cookies for all his teacher, aids, and bus attendants and more as he grew older his friends joined us for our annual Christian eve party. This year will be an unusual Holiday, as my mother passed last year. As we try to redefine the Holidays, my son and I are looking forward to eating and baking cookies. Our Christmas eve party may not happen, but we will enjoy our ravioli dinner, my sons now favorite food, instead. I plan to continue these traditions as we incorporate new ones.