Our family traditions
Christmas traditions have always been a treasured part of my holiday season, despite the unprecedented nature of this year. Being from an Armenian family, I’ve grown up with a combination of traditions that are a part of both of my cultures. My family would cook rice and mante, a traditional Armenian dish, alongside American turkey and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, and we would always listen to music in both languages. This custom continues at Christmas. I always make chocolate chip cookies and eggnog, but my grandparents also insist on baklava and chai tea. The combination of cultures in our family is represented by the different, delicious plates on our dinner table.
Arguably the most interesting tradition in my family is the celebration of Christmas twice. While December 25th is known to be Christmas by most Americans who celebrate, Armenian Orthodox Christmas is actually in early January. We always have a special dinner on both holidays, but this year it will unfortunately be limited to just my household due to the pandemic. In addition, my family usually goes to service at an Armenian church on Christmas. The double holiday means double the celebrations, and I’ve always been grateful to have the opportunity to see my entire family multiple times during the holiday season. This year, we will be using Zoom to have dinner together and mailing our gifts to avoid large gatherings. The celebration of both Christmases has also taught me to appreciate the differences in belief systems and cultural practices across people during the holiday season.
I’ve always been extremely proud to have this diversity of culture in my family, and creating our own unique traditions has always been a major part of my holidays. Every Christmas Eve we usually all gather at my grandmother’s house for dinner. I would always sleep over the night before and help her cook the next day. We would spend hours in the kitchen as she taught me all of her traditional Armenian recipes. Cooking has become a special part of my life because it helps me pass on my culture through one of my favorite things: food! This holiday season, my culinary training will be put to the test in the absence of my extended family due to social distancing.
Lastly, one of our most important traditions is donating and raising money every Thanksgiving and Christmas for our favorite nonprofit organization. Giving is especially essential this holiday season. My parents have always instilled in me the power of giving back as a form of pride and gratitude for my culture. I plan to continue this tradition when I have my own children.