Neon American Traditions (Part I)

We freaking love the holidays! Christmas flicks, blankets and couch, hot (spiked) beverages, family, food, and of course… TRADITIONS.  Sugi and I got into a pretty deep talk the other month about our family's holiday traditions. We think it’s extremely important to continue family customs and teach the younger generations what culture is all about.  We, as Americans, want to pay respect to this sundry nation and recognize that we all come from different walks of life, cultures and values. America is a land of immigrants. People have settled here from all corners of this planet to make a better life for themselves, and with this migration – cultures have been intertwined, and traditions have been mixed… resulting in interesting and dynamic experiences and creating beautiful stories and memories: what we're calling "American Traditions". 

Sugi's American Tradition

When I was a little girl, and my parents were still together, we were fortunate enough to live about 5 minutes away from my grandparents. Every holiday was spent at Grandma’s house. We always had traditional holiday food (paired with rice) and sometimes homemade French Fries - although my grandma was the most amazing cook, my brother and I were the pickiest people on earth. After dinner, the adults would watch Japanese television and my bro and I would watch Nickelodeon. It was pretty darn routine.

When my parents split up, we were forced to adopt new traditions, which was difficult for me at first, but now appreciate. My mom remarried a French man and the holidays turned into a time where I was now allowed to drink wine with the adults! To this day, Vueve will always remind me of the holidays. It was kind of amazing having two very cultural grandparents. My grandma would bring inari and other Japanese dishes. My step grandma would bring mounds of spanokopita, pumpkin cheesecake, and all the Vueve. Because I was the oldest kid, I also became the “entertainer” of the grandparents. It was my job to get the grandparents out of the parents way. It was also my job to put cartoons on for my retarded aunt and make sure she wasn’t yelling at step-grandma. After dinner, we went to the movies.

Holiday time with Dad turned into Chinese food and day trips to Monterey. Now that my fiancé and I are fiancés, we spend holidays with both families. I’ve never had a “traditional American” holiday. His family eats and eats and eats (pretty much my dream) and we watch football! We do secret Santa stockings and every year someone gets the infamous family “medallion” hidden in their gift. Oh… and eggs benedict… THE BEST.

My favorite holiday to celebrate with my family is New Years. Growing up, we stuck to Japanese tradition. Dinner was usually sukiyaki (like a hot pot) and at midnight we’d eat noodles - a symbol of long life. The next morning, we’d eat ozoni. This is something that I’ve now introduced to my fiancé and he looks forward to it every year! 

Nicole's American Tradition

I’ll begin by saying that I have a very large family.  You see, my mom is Filipino... do I need to say more?  To kick off the holidays, just about every year, since 1993, my parents have hosted Thanksgiving at our home in Santa Rosa, CA. The night before Thanksgiving is the calm before the storm... my aunt and uncle arrive first with some folding chairs and tables, they set it up - and I start the "tablescaping" aka napkin folding, table decorating, and food organization (I'm also in charge of the bar set up!).  Thanksgiving morning, my dad begins roasting the 20lb turkey, and my mom is non-stop in the kitchen with my 2 aunts making ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, a green bean casserole, and yams. Around 2pm aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends start to trickle in, baring side dishes for all to share... which typically consist of Filipino treats such as lumpia (egg rolls), tawilis (friend sardines), pancit (noodles), and bibingka (sweet coconut-rice cakes) - just to name a few.  So it's a nice spread of traditional American Thanksgiving cuisine, and phenomenal Filipino food.  

Once all Thanksgiving participants arrive (about 55 family and friends!) we gather around the table, join hands and go around the room sharing what we are thankful for... then my dad gives the green light and everyone dives into the feast!  After everyone has feasted, and let their stomachs settle...  the cousins walk to our neighborhood park where two generations of cousins run around the grassy field playing tag, climbing trees and laughing hysterically.  

Once the park trip has subsided, we walk back to the house for a very entertaining game of Guesstures, a high-speed charades game that results in non-stop laughing and memories that'll last a lifetime (just ask my sister-in-law about the mermaid-card incident of 2009). 

For Christmas it's a little more "Americanized" but definitely with a Filipino twist.  After Thanksgiving, my dad and I will shop for the Christmas tree, then bring it home and decorate it with the family. During the few weeks leading up to the big day, we'll watch the classics - Rudolph (claymation of course!), A Christmas Story, The Santa Clause, and a Charlie Brown Christmas are usually our go-to's.  Before movie time, my dad makes hot apple cider and pops fresh popcorn in his old-school popcorn machine (the kind where you actually pour the kernels in the machine, it heats up, and pours out the top).  Then, on Christmas Eve, we go to midnight mass, get home around 1am, eat a GIANT meal... usually consisting of rice, turkey, ham, lumpia, pancit, and whatever other dish my mom decides to whip up.  When we're done chowing down, everyone gets to open one present, then my dad and I set up the milk and cookies for Santa (this never changed... even when I was old enough to "know") and hit the hay.  Christmas morning consists of opening the rest of the presents, and eating the leftover food from the night before (how everyone in my family manages to stay slender is a real mystery).    

Now on New Years, this is where things get interesting! Filipinos go all out on New Years Eve, and they really bring the noise.  We're talking fireworks, horns, bells, anything that makes loud sounds! My mom and dad would give us pots and pans and when that clock struck 12 we'd bang on those things like there was no tomorrow!  Pancit (noodles) is shared to signify long life, which is served with hard-boiled eggs that signify new life, and traditional sticky-rice deserts are also enjoyed to symbolize good fortune sticking around throughout the year!

We hope you enjoyed hearing our family traditions.  If you have any "American Traditions" you'd like to share, we'd love to hear all about it in the comments below!   Stay tuned, we're sharing more American Traditions tomorrow.  Happy holidays everyone! 

Peace + Love