The Santiago Family
The Santiago Family celebrates Christmas by decorating a hodge-podge tree with ornaments that Tara made as a child plus new ones that Izzy has made. ”We also do the Elf on the Shelf and hang stockings,” says Tara. In honor of Chris’ heritage, he makes Filipino eggrolls called lumpia. Christmas Eve is spent with Tara’s family, when her mom cooks a huge feast, and Christmas Day is spent with Chris’ family when they open their presents. When Tara was little, she and her sister could hardly wait to open presents Christmas morning. Each year, the girls refused to stop and eat breakfast before driving to their grandparents’ home to open their gifts so their mom made them at least drink a glass of orange juice. “One year, my mom picked up some orange juice at a gas station,” Tara recalls. “It turned out to be bad, and we all suffered from a stomach ache that Christmas!”
The Hayman Family
The Hayman family celebrates Christmas and Three Kings Day, a celebration of the wise men’s visit to baby Jesus twelve days after Christmas. “Before opening gifts on Christmas morning, we say a prayer of thanks for the gifts we’ve been granted all year, not just for Christmas,” says Lenwood. Afterwards, Lenwood makes his specialty pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast and then the family stays in their Christmas pajamas all day. On the Epiphany of Three Kings Day, they place grass and bowls filled with water in shallow cardboard boxes, then place them under the Christmas tree for the “camels” along with cups of water for the Three Kings. “The next morning,” says Lenwood, “when the kids wake up, they find their gift from the three Kings in the cardboard box.” For dinner on Three Kings Day, Alexandra prepares a traditional Puerto Rican dinner of roasted pork, rice with gandules (pigeon peas), and pasteles, a Puerto Rican meat pie.
The Fitlow, Rashes, and Pereira Families
“We are three generations celebrating Chanukah,” says family matriarch Sally Fitlow. “I brought my family’s traditions to my family and now our daughters have brought them into their homes.” Sally’s youngest daughter usually hosts the family celebration on the weekend during Chanukah. “We spend the afternoon and evening together eating latkes (potato pancakes fried in oil) with sour cream and our family’s special homemade applesauce. We also play dreidel ( a traditional game played with a top), light the candles in the menorah (a ceremonial candleholder), and exchange gifts.” The kids look forward to a gift every night while celebrating Chanukah. “The kids pick which present they want to open each night, hoping to get their one big gift.” Sally says the family loves playing dreidel. “We have gone from playing for hazelnuts when I was young to playing for Starbursts with the younger generation. When the candy is gone because one person wins it—or the kids eat it! —the game is over.”
The Mashrah Family
The Mashrah Family is Muslim and they celebrate Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha. During the month of Ramadan, they concentrate on cleansing themselves from the materialistic world. They pray together, give to charity, and spend time together as a family. After sunset, the family gets together for a special dinner each day. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. They celebrate with a family prayer, followed by a family breakfast. “We all get dressed up and spend time with our families,” says Aly Mashrah. Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of the month of pilgrimage, when Muslims around the world go to Mecca. “We celebrate Eid al-Adha by sacrificing a lamb, like the Prophet Abraham,” says Aly. “We retain one-third of the meat, give one-third to our families, and one-third to the poor. Like Eid al-Fitr, my family begins with a family prayer in the morning followed by a family breakfast. We dress up and celebrate.” She reflects on her favorite holiday traditions by explaining how the whole family unites for good food and good company. “Then we get together afterwards for a huge family activity,” says Aly. “We went bowling and go-carting last holiday, and it was very fun.”