Diversified Thanksgiving

Originally today was going to be another recipe that was completely unrelated to the events of this past week, but when Joanna of Midwestern Bite sent me a message asking about my Thanksgiving and how it works with the combined cultures….well, I decided I could post about it and our combined cultural experiences.

If you continue past the break, you will find the recipe for a boozy cranberry sauce.

Before we continue, I think it is obvious from my pictures that I am as white as a piece of loose leaf paper and my husband K is completely Chinese. It makes for interesting conversation because our childhoods were really different. I have always enjoyed learning about new cultures and how other families live, so I love it. K can speak Cantonese, and spoke it until going to Kindergarten. Once there, he had to learn English, so he likes to joke that since English is his second language, he is allowed mistakes. His immediate family and mine are within 15 minutes of each other, but his extended family lives in New York, so sometimes we are lucky and get to visit. We try to spend every other Thanksgiving there, if possible.

My first Thanksgiving with K

You might be thinking that since K’s family is Chinese that the festivities include weird Chinese traditions and fun outfits like this:

Now, that is a Chinese (wedding) dress, but not what I have to wear for holidays. In fact, that was just me trying it on for our wedding.

The first Thanksgiving K and I were together, I was super nervous to meet his extended family. We had a fancy dinner that year because we were celebrating one of his grandparent’s birthdays as well. It was a big to-do with many courses, lots of people (roughly 30), and karaoke from his aunts and uncles. That was my first taste of finding out how much his family loves karaoke. It was a very non-traditional Thanksgiving if you are looking for turkey and all of the sides. But, I did get to try new foods like abalone (a little salty, but not bad). In trying all of these new foods, I discovered I could not eat tofu very well, which meant that the one Thanksgiving where we ate at a vegan Chinese place, I did not eat much. Most of the food was soy-based and called things like “chicken” and broccoli. Oh well!

This Thanksgiving was different. We stayed at home and his brother did most of the cooking (I contributed stuffing and cranberry sauce).

By the way, for cranberry sauce:

Directions for Boozy Cranberry Sauce

  • 12 oz cranberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup port wine

Wash the cranberries. Put them in a medium saucepan and stir in the orange juice and sugar. Cool for a few minutes over medium heat until the cranberries start to pop open. After a few minutes of popping, stir in the port. Continue cooking until they have popped enough for your liking (the shorter the time, the chunkier your sauce will be). When finished, pour into a container and let it cool to room temperature before covering and placing in the fridge for a few hours to set (overnight if possible).

His parents were super excited about an American Thanksgiving meal and it was fun to have it with them.

A typical lunch/dinner with my in-laws

Of course, we had to eat a sticky rice dish ahead of time because going a day without rice would be shocking, but surprisingly there were no Asian influences in our meal. For other occasions we blend the cultures a bit more. For instance, my second birthday with K was spent in  New York where I got to eat these bun things.

They have a sweet filling which was a different kind of birthday treat for me. For special birthdays, a huge fruit cake is popular. They are super pretty, but I still miss the chocolate.

For our wedding, we combined traditions a bit. I did not buy the dress from above, but had one made and wore it for half of the day.

I also got to wear jewelry from K’s mom. In the Chinese culture, the groom’s mother gives the bride 24 karat gold jewelry that gets passed down to the bride’s future daughter-in-law. You can see me decked out in the gold while wearing my American wedding dress. The big gold necklace has K’s zodiac sign on it and a Chinese message. The idea is that I keep him in my heart always. I love it and wear it often. There are also jade bracelets but they are really hard to put on. I tried, but I was too much of a baby for it.

Yes, I thought everyone would like another goofy picture of me.

Special occasions also call for food with special meanings. Before we were married, his parents set out these dishes.

Different dishes mean different things, like long life, good fortune, etc. There is incense and some prayers, then the dishes are cleared and the food meant for eating is put on the table.

What traditions do you have with your family for holidays?

9 thoughts on “Diversified Thanksgiving

  1. Hi Alyssa (hope it’s ok I call you that)…I can totally relate to this post. I’m Cantonese (speak it fluently but can’t read/write it). I don’t do any of the tradition meals or celebrations but my mom still does so I know exactly what you’re talking about! It’s really great to know more than one culture intimately, I think (the food is definitely the perk). : ) I love your tailor-made red wedding dress – that picture of you guys cutting the cake is beautiful! When we got married, we had a traditional Chinese banquet but I wore a white wedding gown and 2 other dresses – one was red in color but I skipped the traditional red one. If I’d been able to find one as nice as yours, I’m sure I would’ve jumped at it. : )

    • Totally ok to call me that 😀 We went to one of those banquets, but it wasn’t for us. I wasn’t originally going to get a Chinese dress, but K’s mom found one for a great price that was pretty. I preferred it to my American one.

      K is happy to know he is not the only illiterate Cantonese person around–hehe. I hope we can pass on both our cultures to our (future) kids.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post. We chat on social media a lot so I feel like I know you, but not really know you. If that makes sense. And since you do mostly talk about food, it was great to see a glimpse into your culturally diverse life. I love that you had two wedding dresses in one day! How many women can say that?

    • It makes sense. I feel the same way! The two wedding dresses were fun, although it was so hot that day that changing back and forth was a bit gross-feeling. 🙂 Feel free to ask more questions in the future and I will try to oblige!

  3. I’m obviously late to the party now that we’re back from a few days of visiting family, but I just wanted to quickly say I really enjoyed reading this and seeing the pictures. Thanks for taking the time to write it up!

  4. Pingback: Not Quite Right | fudgingahead

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