I am going to write about the December festivities in the Asian immigrant community here in the areas surrounding New York City. There’s definitely a feeling of cultural fusion here concerning the customs, the food, the activities, and the way people interact with each other.
Christmas Gift Exchange
It seems everybody has an opinion on this issue. Some prefer Christmas for gift exchange, some would wait for the Lunar New Year, which happens around the time for Super Bowl–the finale of the American Football season. Those people who prefer Christmas gift exchange do it for their kids. They have young kids at home and they want them to be Americanized as much as possible. The following conversations about Christmas gifts can often happen right before the Thanksgiving Day:
A: What do you think of this year? A Christmas gift exchange, right?
B: Oh, unless you want to do it for the Lunar New Year.
A: You decide. Which do you prefer?
B: You decide.
B prefers Christmas since B has a young kid. but B wants A to say the word. So after several back and forth, A finally says, “let’s do it for Christmas.”
A: What should I get you?
B: It doesn’t matter. You don’t need to bother. However my son likes to have blah blah blah and he would appreciate if you get it for him.
A: Are you sure you don’t want anything? I mean it will look odd to your son that he gets a gift from me while you and your husband don’t.
B: OK, how about you buy one gift card for me and one gift card for my husband. They give you a little metal box in Nordstrom. You give the gifts to me in advance. I will wrap all three gifts up.
A: Wonderful. So that’s settled. Now I will call other people about the gift exchange issues.
B: Since you don’t have small children to worry about, I will just send you and your husband an Amazon electronic gift card through email. It saves time this way.
Actually the above conversations have happened multiple times in previous years, but it has to be repeated almost verbatim every year just to show the politeness.
Christmas Dinner Parties
Award Party: This happens when a child win an award. For example, a chance of performing piano at Carnegie Hall through the “High School Carnegie Hall Program”. The parents would get the tickets and there are also extra tickets for friends and relatives. People travel to New York City to watch the kid perform, after which there will be a trip to lower Manhattan to get groceries in the Asian stores. At night, a dinner party will be thrown for the kid and his friends. Parents’ friends are invited too.
Dumpling Party: Making dumpling from scratch is like an assembly line. The dough making, the vegetable cutting, the pre-pan fry of ingredients such as tofu curds, mushroom etc. Everybody has to participate, no matter how young and how old. If you want the dumpling to taste good, you will have to designate the most capable person to mix the fillings–the crucial step.
Mahjong Party: I know a person who holds mahjong party at home almost every day. His entire first floor is remodeled so that the living room, kitchen, dining room become one huge hall, which fits more mahjong tables. He is a manager of a sales team of 40 people and his mahjong party serves the purpose of recruiting and marketing in the Asian community.
Pot Luck Party: Everybody brings a dish or two to this party.
Some families would choose to go on vacation during this time, usually going somewhere warm, like Florida. And family trips are very tricky thing since if they are not planned well, the thing can go over budget easily and the quarreling between the couple is almost certain. I can’t blame them since they are struggling to pay for the mortgage, the property taxes, children’s education and many more.
The most affordable vacation is joining a group ski trip in Pennsylvania. They give very good group discount and the whole family can have fun with friends’ families. I know several parents who would stay in the cottage style hotel to play mahjong to save money, while only one parent takes all the kids for ski training classes and the slopes etc.
Visit To Casinos
A trip to a casino is indispensable for the holiday season. It can be a flight to Las Vegas when the air tickets are on sale, or a drive to Atlantic City, Lehigh Valley, or Connecticut. Usually casinos will have singers and performers from Asia during this time–usually not the most popular ones since those will not do this. Usually they are the singers and performers who have passed their prime, but can still attract followers.
I’ve been to casinos many times but I’ve never won anything. My friend L often says that it is a good thing that a person doesn’t win since this person will never become a gambler.