By Sophia Wolfe
1. What is Christmas like in your family? If you don't celebrate Christmas, do you celebrate something else? If so what?
Amy: My family doesn't usually celebrate Chanukkah, however I have celebrated it several times - so unfortunately I don't know as much about Chanukkah as I probably should.
Fumei: Umh Christmas in my family... well, Christmas in my family is having a nice and easy-going few days. I’ll start off with saying that we celebrate Christmas Eve, and the first and second day of Christmas. In the past, we would go to the church on Christmas Eve. Nowadays we don’t go anymore. I think I haven’t been to Church for the past 11 to 12 years. But well that’s not the point. Christmas is a holiday where we celebrate together with the family. And most of the time that would just be my Gran, my parents and my siblings (and possible boy/girlfriends). On the first day of Christmas, we have a huge meal with 4 to 5 courses or more (we make this ourselves). For the last few years we’ve also done a Secret Santa on the first day of Christmas. In total, we just hang around together and be with each other during this day.
On the second day of Christmas it’s somewhat the same. But during this day we are a bit looser and we don’t have to really attend anything. So if we want we can go out, hang with friends, or just do things we like. And sometimes we watch a movie together. But well it just depends on the plans.
We also celebrate Christmas Eve together. We mostly do this with a bread meal in the evening.
This bread meal would have all different kind of Dutch food. So we would go from bread, to Dutch Rusk, sausage rolls, meat buns (worstenbroodjes) and most of the time we would have some raisin bread. So on Christmas Eve we have a ‘light’ meal.
So that’s how I celebrate Christmas with my family.
Scarlet: My family always spends Christmas at a ski resort in Vermont. We started going when my youngest brother was only one year old. (He didn't start skiing until he was three.) It is a six hour drive from New Jersey to Vermont, so once we all got older, we began to take turns driving. Throughout the 16-17 years we've been skiing, the resort has upgraded its logo and some of us tried snowboarding, but we are always with family for a white Christmas.
Sil: Christmas in my family is sort of a mix of Hungarian and American traditions, mostly because we do have my cousin's non-Hungarian boyfriend with us most of the time. We have the traditional szaloncukor (parlor candy), which is a chocolate-covered candy filled with a variety of things--jelly, caramel, chocolate, coconut, etc. They're wrapped in pretty, colorful paper, so we hang some on the tree, instead of the American candy canes. We bake
traditional cakes, such as the 3-layered apricot jam and walnut-filled zserbó (Gerbeaud), and a cake with chestnut mousse. We eat tölött káposzta, which is cabbage leaves (we use pickled cabbage for efficiency) wrapped over a heavily-seasoned (with onion, garlic, paprika, and black pepper) ground pork and rice mixture, then cooked. It's delicious! But other than that, we don't really follow any of the other Hungarian traditions anymore--it's a bit difficult with my sister/nephew, who are much more Americanized than my parents and I.
2. What is your favourite holiday tradition?
Amy: My favorite tradition is that of the lighting of the candles themselves, as it is so central to the holiday of Chanukkah. An additional candle is lit during each of the eight days, representing the miracle of Chanukkah, in which only a small amount of oil was found in the Temple after it was liberated from the Greeks, and instead of the oil only lasting one day, it lasted eight days. Also, there are various Hebrew songs associated with Chanukkah and for some reason, a number of those have always been among my favorites; more so because of how they sound rather than the meaning behind them, although that does add to it.
Fumei: My favourite Christmas tradition is that we have a meal together on the First Day of Christmas. I always enjoy the time we spend together. Beside that, it’s also something I would rather not miss at the moment. So when I can choose between working during Christmas or during New Year I would go for the Old/New Year shift.
Scarlet: Ski Resort
Sil: Probably making and eating stuffed cabbage!
3. What is your favourite holiday present that you received in the past?
Amy: I love reading so if I do happen to receive a Chanukkah present, it usually comes in the form of a book. So far, my favorite present has been Trudi Canavan's Magician's Guild, which incidentally forms part of one of my all-time favorite series.
Fumei: Umh since we do Secret Santa during Christmas, most of the time it’s just some small stuff we get from each other. I think the best present I got during Christmas are some Japanese cookbooks. But well most of the time I just love all the pressies that I get. I don’t think I have a real favourite present that I got or I just can’t remember all the presents that I got over the years.
Scarlet: I love scarves and my boyfriend gave me my two favourite scarves on different Christmases. One is a light blue cashmere scarf. The other is a Ravenclaw scarf.
Sil: A high-quality (teaching quality) female skull cast that I've named Harvette.
4. What is your favourite holiday food? What is it?
Amy: My favorite food associated with Chanukkah is latkes, which are deep fried potato pancakes. These are traditionally eaten during this holiday, as the oil used to make them is associated with the miracle of Chanukkah. However, latkes are also generally eaten during other holidays as well, such as Pesach (Passover).
Fumei: My favourite food during Christmas… We don’t have really something that comes back every year. But I think what I most enjoy during Christmas are the Worstenbroodjes, which are buns with a sausage in them, but not like Sausage Rolls. It’s something Dutch/Belgium. And even though I can eat that through the year, I always enjoy it during the holidays. Besides worstenbroodjes, I always love to eat Dutch Rusk with muisjes (little mices.). Muisjes are aniseeds covered in a little sugary coat. Most of the time they are coloured white with pink or white with blue. This is also some traditional food that is served when you visit a new born baby.
Scarlet: There are some waffles that are sold at all the lodges in small stores called Waffle Cabin. My brothers love them, but I think they are too pricey. I prefer hot chocolate. I know it is not really a holiday food, since you can have it anytime, but it is especially delicious after coming in from a day of skiing or shoveling snow for a few hours. I really enjoy the peppermint version that is available during the holidays.
Sil: Like I said, stuffed cabbage XD
I hope you had as much fun reading their answers as I did. Surely after reading this you will always know what to get them for Christmas; in Sil’s case, you can’t go wrong with stuffed cabbage! :D
Last but not least, I would like to thank this four lovely ladies taking time to answer my questions!