APAs Mix Holidays with Culture

With the holiday season around the corner, many Asian Pacific American families are anxiously awaiting the annual gathering of close friends and family.

“We use this time to catch up, talk about things and just enjoy each other’s company as a family, which usually involves good food and good atmosphere,” said freshman bioengineering major Charles Liu.

Liu said much of his family is still in Shanghai, but his immediate family indulges in traditional Chinese food such as zhong-zhi (sticky rice wrapped in large banana leaves), tang yuan (sticky riceballs with bean paste) and moo-shu (pork chop meat and scrambled eggs stir fried in sesame oil, mushrooms and day lily buds) for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.

Unlike Liu’s family, Christopher Quach, a freshman sociology major, whose family is Vietnamese, has religious as well as cultural traditions that he and his family follow.

During Thanksgiving and Christmas, Quach and his family weave their Buddhist traditions and beliefs into their celebrations.

“My aunt and uncle have a Buddhist altar with a shrine to our ancestors that we all worship and offer food to every time the holidays come around,” Quach said.

Nikhil Mathur, the freshman executive for the Indian Students Association, shared some of the Indian American traditions that take place during this time of year.

“The concept of family is huge in the Indian culture, so getting together with all of your family and eating a lot of homemade food is perfect for us,” he said.

He explained how his family celebrates Thanksgiving the same way most Americans do, but that his family also includes traditional Indian food and performs Hindu prayers before eating to give thanks.

Sweets, according to freshman bioengineering major Priyanka Jayanti, are exchanged among Indian-American families during the New Year to signify the “sweet” things in life.

“During Indian holidays, sweets are a really big deal,” Jayanti said. “People usually make a lot and distribute them among their friends and family. And they get some back too.”

These include gulab jamun, deep fried dough soaked in a sugary syrup, and jalebi, deep fried batter in a pretzel or circular shape soaked in syrup.

Mathur and his family also celebrate Diwali, which is the Hindu New Year, also known as the Festival of Lights. It is a holiday that celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

“We do our prayers and then we turn on as many lights as we can in our homes, which is supposed to attract blessings from God,” Mathur said. “We also light candles, known as ‘diyas,’ and put them around the house.”

Diwali is a big celebration that includes setting off fire crackers and getting together with family and friends. Mathur’s family also celebrates the American New Year with a large party of family, friends, food and dancing.

Although Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year are viewed as American holidays, many people of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds celebrate them. Each celebration varies depending on the culture, religion or household, but it’s the tradition of celebrating that ultimately brings everyone together.




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