Hapa Holiday Traditions
Grandmama’s Beef Short Ribs with Marrow Bones and Cabbage
This recipe has been in my family for over 100 years. My grandmother makes it every Christmas Eve.
Alison Lea Bender
Making Latkes and Matzo brei
We have a Christmas tree and a Menorah up in my parents house every year. Whenever I come home in December, we make some latkes and matzo brei. My Mom will serve it with Korean food, too. Yeah, we are a crazy family, but it’s fun to embrace both my sides at once!
Christmas Lobster Feast
There have been many an incarnation of Christmas Dinners in my family - goose, ham, 2nd Thanksgiving, “healthy”..... The list could go on from super American traditional to multiethnic experimental. None has been as successful as our, now standard, Christmas Lobster Feast. We gave up Christmas gift-giving long ago as my sister and I became young adults and realized it was far too stressful and expensive to try and come up with great presents for everyone at the same time every year. As a family, we were much more interested in what was going to be on the table and making an effort to get everyone together to eat delicious food. So subsequently, the money previously spent on presents now goes to an epic homemade holiday meal full of seafood with good old fashioned Connecticut steamed lobsters as the centerpiece. We all contribute, we all make a huge mess and we always have leftovers for lobster rolls, lobster omelettes or lobster benedicts the next day. Lobster anyone?
Disgruntled Restaurant Visits
I come from two different backgrounds that seem to suffer from the same thing: the assumption that we keep up with our traditions, and that said traditions are “rich” and “impressive”. We don’t, and they’re not. I suppose the main tradition that we have always been great with is the tradition of half-assing traditions. Nominally half-Chinese and (for whatever reason) baptized Catholic, we’ve done the Christmas Eve Mass and the big family dinner. Nominally half-European Jew, we’ve gone out for Chinese food then argued about politics and gone to bed angry. Sometimes we’re surrounded by loved ones, staring out at 15 courses at a huge table. Sometimes we’re eating leftover Boston Market in bed by ourselves as we listen to Zorba and openly weep while staring at our high school yearbook. I seem to recall going to Hometown Buffet once for Christmas dinner and getting incredibly sick. We have no lasting family recipes that don’t start with the word Stouffer’s. If anything, I think our firmest tradition is one that is not limited to the holidays. This is the tradition where, every time we get together, we go to the exact same place. Every time, for maybe five visits, it is the ONLY option. Then someone has a less-than-stellar dessert item or thinks the valet parking guy is trying to steal from her glove compartment… and we never go there again. “Why can’t we go back to Silver House, Auntie?” “Because it’s bad now. Stop talking.” And the tradition continues.
Japanese New Year
Ok, when we said “Holiday Traditions,” we meant it! Christmas is not the biggest holiday in my family. Truthfully, it might be third or fourth on the list. New Year’s Day is the big one for us, and it’s been my favorite holiday since I was a child.
In Japan, New Year’s Day, or Shogatsu, is a family celebration. Because Japan switched to the Gregorian Calendar during the Meiji era, New Year’s Day is the same day as Western societies. My mother tells stories of going from house to house to see family eating the same foods at each home. Traditionally, New Year’s Eve is celebrated by eating Toshi Koshi Soba (aka “Year-crossing or year-end Noodles.) This dish comes complete with noodles, hard-boiled egg, spinach, and kamaboko; at least that’s how I make it. We’ve never been completely traditional in our New Year’s celebration. Instead of the traditional Osechi-Ryu, we do a variety of onigiri, venison teriyaki, futomaki, wontons, and the shrimp tempura (my specialty).
My favorite part of this day is spending the whole day cooking with my family, celebrating a day that’s a mixture of my Japanese heritage and American nationality. Now we bring friends and loved ones over, and I can’t wait for this year’s New Year’s Day!
Rebecca Lee Lerman
Different Faiths Cedar
It is a quite touching and poignant tradition. This is not a Thanksgiving or Christmas event, this happens at Passover in the spring. For the Passover Seder, my father's Temple gathers different faiths. Muslim, Jews, and people of Christian faith come together to share a meal and the story of Moses and how he lead the Jewish people out of Egypt. They talk about their faiths. Rather than dividing and focusing on differences, they find similarities between their religions. It is a very touching tradition to bring people together to find what unites us instead of divides us.
Naomi Takata Shepherd
Japanese New Year
We keep our New Year’s celebration pretty low key, since my mom’s side of the family lives in SoCal and we don’t usually make it down there for Japanese New Year. But even when my immediate family isn’t all together for New Year at my parents’ house in San Jose, my mom always sends me and my brother back to our places with soba and mochi with azuki beans to make on New Year’s Day for health and luck.
Christmas Morning Strata and Fresh Croissants
On Christmas Eve, my mom preps a big strata made of eggs, bread, sausage, and cheese to bake the next morning. My brothers and I eat that as we open Christmas presents. We also always order croissants from Williams-Sonoma. The croissants come frozen, and have to be left out overnight to rise. After baking they are amazing, flaky, and v good.