For many, year-end holiday celebrations are often about repeating what we generally have already done many times before. And yet, we always look forward to them as if we were experiencing them for the first time. We cannot wait to gather up all our loved ones for company and merriment, and dig into some old family recipes to create this year’s exciting feast.
It is our traditions that make this time of the year so very special, mostly a mixture of the old American customs and our own family rituals. We carry them faithfully from our parents and grandparents, and pass them on to our children and their children.
Whether hanging up a tree ornament that belonged to our great-grandmother, or playing a holiday record once owned by our parents, old traditions can magically bring back the presence of our loved ones who are no longer with us or cannot be with us, allowing us to relive the nostalgic moments we’ve so treasured in life.
Growing up during the Cultural Revolution in China, I lived through a period of history when traditions and rituals were considered to be outdated and unrevolutionary, and therefore discouraged. As a citizen of a country with5000 years of history, ironically, I learned few holiday traditions, which is why in my later years I’ve become obsessed with learning about them.
Now a Chinese immigrant married to an American of Latvian, French, and English descent, our family holiday celebrations could be more inclusive, and we add new elements all the time to reflect all our cultural and family heritages. For holiday meals, we have our usual Latvian piragis – little baked dumplings filled with bacon and roasted onions, Shanghai spring rolls, American pies, English pasties and French beef bourguignon, all nestled side by side on our banquet table.
Most recently, we’ve learned to make Chinese mooncakes, the newest addition to our expanding menu of holiday pleasures.
By reviving and keeping up the old traditions, we not only celebrate the end
of a year, but our very diverse family. By adding new elements to our otherwise ritualized holiday routine, we can make sure that every year-end celebration is a special one.
Reflections From the East Column
By Qin Stubis