Week of December 22, 2014: Holidays

Happy Christmukkah…

Happy Holidays! This week we’re talking to all different people about a variety of holiday celebrations and traditions, and even about the absence of them altogether! We’d love to hear your thoughts. Let us know about your own holiday celebrations. Maybe you can identify with some of the fantastic people who have graced our pages with their stories this week.

cindyholidayWhat holiday(s) do you celebrate?
“Hanukkah and Christmas.”

Why do you celebrate both?
“Because I’m Jewish and my husband is Catholic.”

When you started dating, what was that transition like for you both?
“I’m really not that religious. Basically in the Jewish religion, you’re either orthodox or liberal (reform), there’s different sects. I’m basically just straight holidays. My husband’s family wasn’t real religious either, so we figured we’d just do everything. I learned about the Christmas holiday and his religion and he learned about mine. He also loves Jewish food so that really helped (Laughter).”
Having a child together, how have you kept the meaning of the holidays in tact?
“It wasn’t bad. We do everything. She’s been to a synagogue, she’s been to a church. I bought her a bible, the Old Testament (and it has a little of the New Testament in it). So she learned about that. We figured she’d be exposed to everything and she can choose when she gets older what she wants to do.”

Do you think she leans one way to the other?
“Not really. She hasn’t really said. I think she understands now, being 14, both religions and the customs. Maybe after high school, college, who knows. At least she’s been exposed and decide. You wanna just teach them the core beliefs about the bible and God.”

With the difference between the Jewish and Christian faiths, where Jesus is concerned, was there ever contention between your husband and you (or your families)?
“Not really. I mean there’s always a little bit. His family, I think more, because my family…we weren’t really very religious. But his father was religious. So it took him getting used to it. It’s never easy. You grow up believing a certain thing and then you kind of bring something else into the mix. So it’s kind of a shock kind of thing. But they got accustomed to it and they’re ok with it. It’s hard when you mix any kind of religion, there’s gonna be some kind of problems. When I was with his family, they (still) did prayers at the table and it was ok. Just like with my family, my husband was Ok with it. You just make it work.”

Neither of you were offended in any way at the first family gatherings?
“No. I mean, my mom she was more into tradition. We made it a policy that nothing real religious be given as gifts for us. Just for respect. Like the cross is a Christian symbol and the star a Jewish symbol, for example. We’re neutral and didn’t wanna push anything on each other. We just wanna keep it to the traditions. When we got married, we had a judge and mixed a little of the Jewish religion into it and the Christian religion into it, so it worked out well. We had a neutral wedding. When two people love each other, you just don’t look at that, at religion. You just work it out. I’ve had friends who would only date within their faith. I’ve had Jewish friends that would only date Jewish people cause they figured that’s who they’re gonna marry.”

Do you think they missed out on opportunities to be happy because they narrowed their choices?
“Yes I do. I think that the way the world is now, there’s so much diversity, that you have to learn different things. I learned a lot and I’m glad. A lot of times, Christian people would meet at church. Same with Jewish people. You’d go to synagogue. And you’re only with that groups of people, then that’s who you’re gonna meet and marry. But the way the world is, more evolved, there’s mixed marriages. It doesn’t matter what religion (or race) you are. If you love somebody, you make it work. That’s what we did
So, what is the best gift you ever received?
“That’s tough. A diamond heart necklace from my husband.”

How about the best gift you ever gave?
“It can be anything?”

“A blue ray player for my husband.”

Why was that so exciting to give?
“Cause that’s his thing. He loves movies. His hobby is movies. So he was dying to get this blue ray player. That was an awesome gift and he was really happy.”

Fa la la la la….
12/23/2014 2 Comments

Happy Holidays!
What was the best gift you have ever received? We want to know! But first, we’re keeping holiday week going with another interview! And find out what makes the holidays unique to every person by reading all of our interviews all week long.

holidayrobWhat holiday do you celebrate?

How did you celebrate the holiday as you were growing up? Was it always a big deal?
“The family all got together. My family’s not very big. I had 3 uncles (and their wives) and a brother, my parents and my grandmother. It wasn’t until I was teenager that they (the uncles) started having kids. So, we’d get together until my grandmother passed away and then I grew up, got older and moved on so it started getting a little different.”

How did it get different?
“Everybody wouldn’t gather either at my mothers or my grandmothers anymore. Maybe my uncles would go to one of my other uncles house. Or two of my uncles would go to their in-laws instead. It just kind of separated out a little bit. We’d still see each other to some degree. But it wasn’t the same as when I was a kid.”

Now that you’ve moved away (to Florida), how is Christmas different then when you lived back home?
“Well first and foremost, and it isn’t like you haven’t heard it before, I can wear shorts on Christmas! Let me just say that.”

Was it harder to get in the spirit of the holiday with the environment being different?
“Not for me. Christmas is still coming. Still gotta shop and decorate. And if I have to decorate outside, I’d rather do it down here where it’s warmer. So if I were gonna get into it more, I wouldn’t hate it as much since I’d be more comfortable. Wouldn’t seem like such a chore. But we’ve eased up on Christmas a bit, but that’s by choice. We’re just getting a little older and it’s not the big deal it used to be.”

How has it changed for you?
“Again, I think it’s just that we’ve gotten older. Plus, my husband works in retail and he has Christmas crammed down his throat and he’s so busy that I think he’s lost a little bit of the spirit. He’s wiped out from it all. I’m just older and it just isn’t a big deal to me anymore. But not for any particular reason that I can pinpoint besides that.”

Your husband’s family is still up here (in the Philadelphia area). How does that affect him around this time of year?
“It’s a little rough for him. He gets through it ok and at least he has his grandmother down here. So he has someone, family wise, that he didn’t used to get to see when he lived up north, ’cause she lived down here. So there’s a little trade off that I think helps, but he definitely misses his mother and seeing her at Christmas. Absolutely.”

For you, do you think losing your own mother, plays a part in why the holiday isn’t as big of a deal anymore?
“Could be. I have less family left. I guess it could play a part. I’ve never really thought of it that way. I’ve never made the assumption that because we moved, or my matriarchs are dead and he’s (his husband) away from his family, that Christmas sucks. I’ve never really thought of it that way. It could be a combination of all of it. I may learn something during this interview with you. (Laughter).”

Were there special traditions you had with your mom that you miss?
“A couple, and they’re stupid little things. Like every Christmas Eve, and this is when I got a little bit older and we didn’t go to my grandmothers anymore, people would go to my mother and step father’s townhouse ’cause it was bigger. My step father would go out and pick up Chinese food every Christmas Eve and that’s what we’d have for dinner. They were already cooking but they were cooking for Christmas Day. Then, of course, when we went to bed, they had to marathon wrap. It was an all day all night thing, Christmas Eve. We’ve done that the past three or four Christmas Eves down here, gotten Chinese food. Another thing my mom did, she’d make the Pillsbury cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. They’re stupid little things, we weren’t big on traditional things, but those were a couple little things we always did. I’ve been doing that too. As for Christmas dinner, the family always had a lasagna and a ham. But Christmas dinner is Christmas dinner. It can change up, it doesn’t really matter.”

So you just started picking up those little traditions recently?
“Yeah. There was always so much going on (before) that I didn’t have time to think about those little things.

As time goes by, and we lose those close to us, do those little things become more significant?
“Yeah, so you don’t lose all of it because everything does change. There’s no two ways about it. Some things can kind of stay the same but change at the same time. Like the Christmas party (referring to an annual traditional Christmas party). You have a party every year, but maybe the people that come are different. We were a small crowd in the beginning. Larger now. Some don’t come to all, some have been there since the beginning. Things just change. I got tired of being upset about things changing.”

So you were, at one point, upset about things changing?
“Yeah. No one thing in particular. But as you start getting a little older and growing up, that’s when things really start to change. But people come, people go. People live, people die. You do this for years, now you don’t, you do something different. And I just don’t let any of that bother me cause it just takes too much energy. Sometimes I think I seem cold, and wonder if I am being heartless or selfish, cause I don’t waste energy mulling over something. Can I go back? No? Then I guess it is what it is. I don’t like it, and I may have a puss on my face sometimes about (it), but I’m not gonna pine over it. I can’t. Even with people leaving. I can miss them, but I can’t pine.”

On a lighter note, what was the best gift you ever received?
“That’s a tough one….I’m teetering between two things. I got really super excited when I got a bike (as an adult) when I lived in Asbury Park so I could ride with my friends from work, which I did for a couple of summers. I didn’t expect to get one and I was surprised and shocked and thrilled to get it. The other one was when I was about 12. My mom got me these really cool sneaker skates to go to Palace (a local roller skating rink) with. They were blue and yellow striped bobo’s with wheels. (Laughter). And they had blue wheels and yellow stoppers and blue and yellow stripes. They are the two coolest things I can come up with off the top of my head.”

What was the best gift you ever gave?
“I guess the karaoke machine I gave a friend. I don’t know why I thought it would be so great. I thought he’d love it and I was correct. I figured this way, instead of blasting out the neighbors with George Strait, he could rattle the neighborhood with his own voice. (Laughing).”

Feliz Navidad!

Happy Holidays.
Continuing our week long look at different holiday traditions, celebrations, and customs, today we’re looking at the ethnic and cultural influence on holiday celebrations. If you’ve missed any of our holiday interviews, it’s not too late to get caught up! And fill us in on what your holiday celebration looks like…

“This time of the year, my family celebrates Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We typically end our Holiday season on January 6th, which is Three Kings Day. When we were younger, my siblings and I would put hay in front of our bedroom doors. We did this so the “Three Kings” would come and take the hay to feed their camels. In exchange for the hay, the Three Kings would leave each one of us a gift. My family did this part for years until we started to get older. As of now, we normally just have a family dinner on Three Kings Day to end the holiday season. The Christmas tree and decorations are usually up until the day after Three Kings Day.”

“Absolutely! I have always loved this time of the year ever since I was a child. There is just something about it that gives me a great feeling inside. Sadly, I do not get to see other family members now as I did back then. The extended family would get together often during this time of the year with family parties. It was always a great time. I want to make sure that whenever I have a family that these traditions will be passed down. I am hoping I can bring back the spark to the holiday season with my own family.”

“The make-up of my family is mainly Puerto Rican, though we have different culture backgrounds within the extended family. We’re a pretty diverse family. I’d say our Puerto Rican background does have an influence during the holidays mainly because of the spanish food we eat during them. With Three Kings Day, many Hispanics celebrate it especially if their religion is Catholic. I know many non-Hispanic Catholics that celebrate it as well, though, it may be celebrated differently.”

“We typically have spanish and american food. For the spanish side, we’ll have arroz con gandules (spanish style rice w/pigeon peas), pernil (pork butt/shoulder), pasteles (similar to tameles), and coquito (puerto rican egg nog). For the american side, we’ll have turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and different vegetables. It sometimes changes, but all the stuff mentioned is what we’ll normally have during the holidays, including Three Kings Day.”

“I can honestly say that the best gift I’ve ever received- and this may sound cliché- is being able to celebrate the holidays with my family every year. Celebrating with my family during holidays every year so far in my life has been a blessing because not everyone gets to do that with their own. I don’t remember many of the gifts I’ve received when I was younger -mainly toys. Now that I’m older, I appreciate being with my family, though money, gift cards to places I like, or books (*especially on education) never hurt.”

*Eddie is an Elementary Education major at Millersville University.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas…



Wishing you and your family peace, love, health & happiness today and every day.

… and a Happy New Year!

Making a (Birthday) List, Checking it Twice…
12/25/2014 0 Comments

This week we’ve been talking about the holidays. If you’re kind enough to share a few moments of your holiday with us, thank you. Today, we’re sharing an interview with someone who is doubly effected today. Do you have a holiday birthday? Tell us about it. And help us wish Holly a Merry (Happy) Birthday!

hollyHow is having a birthday on Christmas?
“I got cheated out of presents all my life. I would get one present, total, for my birthday and Christmas, combined. My mom and dad would get me gifts for both, but everyone else would give one gift.”

How about celebrating your birthday. Was there a separate celebration?
“Christmas Eve my family got together and sang happy birthday to me. We still do it, even though my parents have passed.”

If you could give advice to people with a child that has a birthday on Christmas, what would you say?
“My mom, one time, would put numbers in a bag up to 31, and picked one out for July and we celebrated then. Make sure you celebrate. Give a birthday to them.”

What was the best gift you every received?
“A fur coat from Clover. A black rabbit coat my mom got me.”

Was that a Christmas or birthday gift?birthday
“A birthday present. It was something I always wanted.”

Do you still have it?
“No. I was like 9. It fell apart.”

How do you feel, as an adult, about having your birthday on Christmas?
“When you get older, it doesn’t really matter anymore. As long as I’m around my family and friends, that’s all that matters.”

Home for the Holidays: Kwanzaa and More…

Continuing our look at people’s holiday traditions and celebrations, today we’re talking a little about Kwanzaa memories of the past and an honest approach to holiday traditions for the future. Be sure to check out any of our holiday interviews you may have missed earlier this week. Happy Holidays!

imageDo you celebrate any winter holidays?
“I grew up celebrating Kwanzaa just cause my parents were into Islam when me and my brother were born. So we did that in my early childhood up until the time my dad died. When that happen, thirty years ago yesterday, when he passed away (I was only nine years old). After that my mom kinda reverted back to Christianity but she gave me and my brother the choice of what we wanted to do. The fact that I was already used to not doing the Christmas thing or whatever, I just never really felt the need to after that.”

Did you continue celebrating Kwanzaa after that?
“Not on a consistent basis. Whenever that time of year would come, my mom would ask us, and it took a while cause by him (his dad) passing away, like a week before Kwanzaa would’ve started, that kind of made it hard to really get into it. We were used to doing it all together. I think I probably waited till I was a teenager before I really was ready to get into it again.”

What is the custom of Kwanzaa?
“Each day is slightly similar to Hanukkah, where you light the different candle. Kwanzaa is a seven day thing and each day has a different principle. Whatever day that principle represents, you give gifts based on that principle. And it doesn’t have a be a gift all the time. It used to be that each person in your family would host a get together. But of course being a work week, what we used to do, was the day, or whatever the closest weekend was, we would have the big celebration. The elders would just sit around and tell stories about the ancestors, how they grew up. A lot of our ancestors, talking about my grandparents, were from down south, so they would just talk about why we should be thankful to have what we have. They had a more difficult life than we did, of course, being that they migrated up north. So the last day of Kwanzaa we’d celebrate with a big feast, kind of like what you would do at Thanksgiving. They always wanted to give gifts to the kids. I thought it was a cool concept. And a lot of the gifts would be hand made stuff and not necessarily something you had to go out to the store to buy. The Grandmoms or the Aunts always made stuff like cool hats and matching gloves. They’d be red, black and green; the African colors. Stuff like that. My one aunt was in ceramics, so she made all of us personalized tea mugs. Every once in a while, the aunts and uncles would buy us toys and stuff, but for the most part, they tried to stress that handmade stuff is more important. Like when we made cards for our parents when we were little. It’s more valuable. I got stuff from my kids now on my refrigerator from when they were little. So, that’s how we celebrated. Some people you talk to may have done it a little different but it’s all based around that same concept.”

Getting to hear those stories from our ancestors is invaluable, isn’t it?
“Yeah, and fortunately I still have one grandparent left. My Grandmom turned 95 in October. Still lives by herself in Germantown (a section of Philadelphia) which is right around the corner from my mom and step dad. On my days off, at least once a month, I go down there and see if she needs anything or whatever. But then just sitting down and talking to her…. her memory’s starting to go a little now, but she’s still strong enough that we’re not putting her in a home. I mean she still lives in a three story house by herself! Same house my mom was born in. Her and my grandfather bought the house in 1955 and my mom was born in 1957. I get a lot of old stories from her.”

Do you still celebrate Kwanzaa?
“The last time I did it was in 2005 the year before my daughter was born and my son was 5. I wanted him to at least experience it. What would happen was, the family would alternate (who hosted). My mom had it in 2003, then my aunt in 2004 and my turn was in 2005. Basically, it’s supposed to rotate where you’d host it about very five years. Once it got to my house, it kind of stopped.”

“You know how some families are? They’ll commit to it in October but then when you try to confirm everything and find out who’s bringing what….
The way I had it set up was I would cook most of the main dishes and have everyone else just bring the sides. But then people, at the last minute, just checked out. And I just got frustrated and figured I’d just do it with my immediate family since no one seemed like they were interested anymore. My daughter was born in the beginning of ’06, and that whole year it was supposed to be at my aunts house. She ended up having a stroke that year, so we were focusing on her a lot. In ’07 was when I moved to Glenside from Mt. Airy. I was still interested in doing it, but I think by that time it was kind of broken, so to speak. Then my kids were starting to get into that Christmas mode more than the Kwanzaa mode and I didn’t wanna force it on them. Their mom grew up with Christmas so I let them do their thing, basically. This is maybe the second year there’s decorations cause my daughter is really into the Christmas decorations and all that. Since we moved up here, I’ve kind of compromised a little bit. Mainly for the little one. My son’s now 14, so he don’t really care. We had a little tree last year. We do the stocking thing and all that. And I went to the stores yesterday and got some stuff my daughter had on her list.”

Do you celebrate Christmas with them?
“I guess you could say yeah, but no. My mom would always get on me cause when my son was little, I would tell him about the whole Santa Claus being a fictional thing.”

What made you decide to tell him that at a young age?
“I guess cause that’s how my dad was with me and I was kind of glad he did. Growing up in the Islam faith, they don’t really believe in fictional Gods. I guess it’s sort of similar to Christians when they say like, “there’s no God before him”. They always thought the whole Santa Claus thing was like worshiping a fictional God. Plus, as hard as me and their mom worked, I’ll be damned if I’m gonna spend all that money on gifts and have them thinking someone else gave them to them. (Laughter) We put in all that overtime and stuff for that! So my thing is, I let them do it but I try to teach them the real. Sometimes I get criticized for it, but I just like to tell them the truth.”

Does their mom feel the same way about the holidays as you do?
“No, she always celebrated.”

Does she get frustrated that you’re not into the holiday?
“Not anymore. She’s used to it by now.”

How do you celebrate Christmas Day?
“Christmas Day I’m always home. Sometimes my brother might be in town from Indianapolis. When he is, my mom always has something over her house, so we’ll go over there. He’ll bring his wife and daughter with him. Othe than that, I’m always home.”

What is your favorite Kwanzaa memory?
“The last Kwanzaa celebration we had when my dad was still here. It was just me, him, my mom and my brother. My paternal grandmother came over, a couple of cousins and we had a nice, big old feast. I was amongst the oldest of the cousins at that time. I was 8 and my brother was 6 and we had a couple of cousins between those ages. The grown folks were doing their thing and all the kids were doing their thing. That was the last one we had and the last one he was alive. That’s my favorite one. December of ’83.”

“The second one was one I had as an adult. My mom had a big Kwanzaa dinner. My brother was in town that particular year. It kind of brought back the memory of the one in ’83, except we were older and my dad wasn’t there. It was more people involved. When my mom married her current husband back in ’93, he already had four kids so we were like a blended “Brady Bunch” kind of family. They were involved in the whole thing. It was a bigger celebration.”

(Hardly) Home For the Holidays….

Continuing to bring you people’s holiday stories all week long. Have you found anyone you can identify with yet? Perhaps this one will resonate- the plight of the retail worker at holiday time. Don’t miss out. Check out all of this week’s holiday traditions, memories, and more…. and join the conversation!
This interviewee asked to speak anonymously to protect the privacy of her employer.

“Just Christmas.”

“We go to my mom’s house on Christmas Day. We have dinner, exchange gifts, etc. On Christmas Eve my in-laws come over and we have dinner. We (my husband and I) work during the holidays so we have to try to fit it all in.”

“We work in the “exciting” world of retail.”

“We both work just about every holiday except Thanksgiving, which for me is non-negotiable.”

“It limits what we can do. We don’t have the extended season like most people do and it kind of kills the holiday spirit. We really have to cram an entire season into one day. Plus we see the worst in people this time of year!”

“It was. Don’t know if it was a “bigger” deal than it is now, but there was more excitement. There was definitely a lot more celebrating than I am able to do now.”

“Day. Christmas Eve is nice, but Christmas Day is a full day together.”

“Christmas Eve was always bigger to my family, but not for me. Day has always been my thing.”

“When I was a kid we could open a lot, most, on Christmas Eve. Now I save them all for Christmas Day.”

“Not really. I had a Godsend for a Grandpa. He always made sure I was happy.”

“Oh that’s a tough one! I really only asked for a couple of things this year. I like buying things for my son more. I’m in retail, I can always use coffee. Starbucks gift cards maybe?”

“I don’t think I’ve seen the nice list since middle school.”


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