The December Festivities

Image by svetlanabar from Pixabay

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.

Winter Vacation

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.

30 thoughts on “The December Festivities

  1. It’s so interesting to learn more about other cultures although now I’m craving dumplings lol. I love the ones with vegetables and tofu and finally found some really great vegan ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, yes. I think the veggie dumplings are great, but people usually only consider meat dumplings because they haven’t had the chance to taste how good veggie dumplings can be. I know there are cabbage dumplings that are very popular, but dumpling takes too much time to make…

      Liked by 1 person

        1. So true. Dumpling takes sooooo much time and it is not for modern womanhood. It should be relegated to the commercial kitchen where people do it for a living, freeing the rest of women like us for more interesting pursuit.


  2. This post feels way too familiar for me.

    One of the part of Asian culture that always stood out for me is the indirectness in speech. If people want something, they have to express themselves in a roundabout way ie “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.”

    The funny thing is people who were born and raised in the East Coast are very direct in what they want, including me, unlike that of the Midwest like Minnesota and Wisconsin. It’s and interesting dynamic.

    I attended a few dumplings. I hate them because I am horrible at making dumplings. I love them because dumplings are delicious.

    Last, but not least, I am now interested to see which Asian singers go to Mohegun Sun and Foxwoods. I might see about attending a show if I like the music.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thank you for pointing that out. I should explore that since it is such a detoured way that everybody hates it but everybody practices it. If you do it directly, people become uneasy.

      I know people who grew up in NJ and they are very direct about what they desire. Food, travel, friendship–everything. They have this very unapologetic ways of doing things. Once we were all having dinner together and one guy (who was new to the region) was so astonished that one girl order food in an exact manner–what should be left out, what should be put on the side, what sauce should be bring to her etc. He’s so astonished and I had to tell him that this is how people enjoy themselves here.

      True, dumpling party is so time consuming and most women just spend all the party time cooking. Some men too who have to work very hard on the food. I really think people should spend more time on communicating and improving their mind. Or at least go out to exercise to improve their body. Spend so much time on their food–like at least 3 to 4 hours if one doesn’t count the shopping and pre-preparation time. It is a big waste, but old customs die hard.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. On the first part about communication, I would say that even if everyone hates it everyone is afraid of being the first “offensive” one. One of my observations in Korea is that a lot of men get pressured to marry someone they never really loved, and that cheating is common, yet everyone is afraid to ignore the pressure and marry whenever they wanted to. Why? Because someone else will chatise them for staying single. I know this as this happened to me all the time.

        I can see why dumpling parties are a thing. They can be good for bonding together. I have had fun talking with others when failing to make any dumplings. I agree, though, rest and relaxation should be paramount.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I read a history book about Korea and it says that in the days before the three kingdoms period of Korea, men and women are mixed together, but that’s all changed after they adopted more strict rules that they thought would make them more “civilized”. They separated men and women in extreme measures–going through different doors even and in certain time of the day, only men were allowed on the streets while in certain period only women were allowed. After that, the system worked so well that men and women interact much much less.
          Too much work for the dumpling party. I stopped enjoying it after my communication skills improved to the point that I wanted to talk more and pay less attention to the food process.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. As for Korean history, I can see that. There was a time Korea imported a lot of Confucian ideals and followed them to a point that they were quite extreme with it. Even now there is still a gender imbalance of power.

          And yes, dumplings are too much work.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Yes, that’s so true. They could have been more free, but they chose a way to sanction themselves. It is said growing rice has a profound way of changing the formation of the society and people’s psyche too. It is in one of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, probably the Outlier. Originally, Japanese and Korean are more like us, the Mongolians who ride horses. At least the language is still similar. It is said a Korean businessman can go to Mongolia for six month and understand the locals without even learning the language. However Japanese and Koreans started to grow rice, which somehow changed them forever. Yes, the adoption of Confucianism too also changed them…

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh yes, the gift giving … difficult issue 😂. My sister and I usually send each other book lists to choose from … so at least it will be a little surprise when opening the gift. With the rest of my family it’s usually something via Amazon as well. The delivery costs from Germany to Austria are just horrendous. With my friends it’s just small usefull gifts like tea or candles, books, gift cards occasionally … Since German and Austrian Christmas and traditions are not sooo different, I don’t have to choose which way to go. But if … I think I’d just do both. Embrace the traditions I like from my “guest” country and keep my own traditions alive … happy holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a wonderful idea. I love the book list idea and would love to know what’s on your book list. True, I just usually do gift cards and Amazon electronic gift cards. Only for those who insist on real gifts, I will do real gifts and I have to say shopping has never been a pleasure of mine. And love your post about your life and thoughts. They are so real and so enjoyable to read.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much!!! 🤩 My book list includes historical mysteries by Jim Eldridge (Murder at the Ritz), David Roberts (Dangerous sea), Lee Strauss (Murder on location), Fran Smith (A thin sharp blade), E.W. Cooper (The jade tiger) and Ian Mortimer (The time traveller’s guide to regency Britain). However, my personal book list which I order from is much more extensive. Anne Perry, Victoria Thompson, Emily Brightwell, Rhys Bowen, Ann Granger, Carola Dunn, Kerry Greenwood, Erle Stanley Gardner, C.S. Harris and many many more. Some Austrian mystery writers are on it as well. Yep, mostly mysteries. More like cozy mysteries. Psycho thrillers are not my thing. With the occasional biography, historical or political book thrown in. I really admire you for the heavy reading you are doing … I couldn’t go through with it. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow, this is quite an extensive list and I know none of these authors. I checked Jim Eldridge, Lee Strauss, Fran Smith are all popular names on audible. I think I will be very interested in Ian Mortimer, but I will have to decide which book to begin with. LOL. Oh, my reading is coming to a halt for the last two months but I have to pick it up again in the new year. Thank you for the recommendation. I will check out other authors in your list later on to see which one I like to explore. You are an inspiration.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Same here! Let me know which one you picked! Sadly, I’m totally obsessed with books and can’t wait to hit “The Strand” next year on my planned NYC trip. (With list of books to buy in hand, of course! 🤣) In any case, happy reading!

          Liked by 1 person

      1. Anytime I won i spent on something other than right back into the casino. The most recent was a New Years eve a few years back in Bethlehem, I won about $50 and cashed in the voucher to get dinner for my wife and I ate at Carnegie Deli that used to be there.

        Liked by 1 person

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