Holiday traditions Asian-American style

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Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!

My family has sort of stopped, but the holiday season is a time to celebrate in general and that we do, in our own little ways. While the rest of the country was scrambling to get gifts for their loved ones around this time of year, I was sitting back and only had to figure out what to bring to the company white elephant last week. Other than that, I really didn’t have any gifts to get. Since I ended up putting together items I had at home (champagne, cookies, and a hangover drink) for the white elephant, I haven’t had to buy a single gift for the season. This actually seems to be pretty common among many Asian American households, so I doubt we’re that unique.

christmas tree in living room decorated with poinsettias and ornaments

The last time we broke out the tree was 2006 I think.

When I was a kid, my parents adopted the American holiday traditions as you often see them advertised. We had Christmas lights and a tree and gifts. One year, I wrote a little letter to Santa and left some cookies and milk, even though I didn’t quite believe it would work. Still, for the sake of participating in a tradition, I gave it a shot. Since my birthday happens to coincide with all the celebrating that occurs between Christmas and New Year’s, I wanted to make sure we celebrated it all lest my birthday get lost in the shuffle. Being an only child, my mom indulged me and even let me dictate that I would get 25 (or was it 30?) gifts one year. Of course, when pencils and socks count, it’s not too hard to get that count. Still, I grew up pretty spoiled and always well-taken care of. While I never got the video games I begged for for years, I did get plenty of other items ranging from clothing to books to toys.

Sometime around high school, I began to really notice how impractical it was to wait til the end of the year just to get a camera or some article of clothing that I could have been enjoying long before. One time when I asked my mom for a particular item only halfway through the year, we decided that it would count as one of my holiday/birthday presents. From that point on, it made more sense to get what I wanted/needed when the timing was right and then we’d just do some small thing at the end of the year more as a gesture than anything else. Over the years, that transitioned into a family trip in the winter and no official gifts. We’d also make sure to get at least one meal together as a family. It’s more about the time and experiences now.

This year for Panda I asked what he wanted and he said much of the same. Time spent together now that we’re both back in LA. We’ll visit some of our favorite stomping grounds and also take some time to explore new ones. I’m finally going to get to a restaurant I’ve wanted to eat at for ages! And that’s how I see us celebrating my birthday in a few days – a whole lot of eating, driving, exploring, and picture-taking. Just the way I like it.

The commercial products? We’ll get them as we see fit, when we see fit.

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