I remember my first Christmas in the United States. It was 1987 and I had just turned 8 a couple of months before. My parents and I settled in the lovely little town of Pullman Washington and we did not know anyone! When we were in China, we didn’t really know what Christmas was so when December 25th rolled around, my parents didn’t know what to expect but knew we had to celebrate with food.
Our apartment was a one bedroom basement unit. To save money on heating bills, my parents oftentimes left the heater off. Instead, we had a little space heater that kept us fairly warm. My mom shopped the day before at the local Dissmores and got as many ingredients as she could with the limited supply of vegetables there. I recall watching TV that Christmas day while my mom was slaving away in the kitchen. The smell of tossed ginger and garlic in fried oil still brings me back to that exact place whenever I’m over at her house and she’s cooking.
We ate that day and we ate good! My mom was proud to show case her chicken that she bought for just $0.39 per pound at the store. My dad was a poor PhD student and my mom was a kitchen helper at the local Chinese-Americanized restaurant and we had absolutely no money. But that Christmas was one I will never forget.
Now…25 years later we still continue the same tradition. We eat on Christmas day and my mom slaves in the kitchen. Except now we’re in Seattle Washington where asian markets are abundant and we’re not left with 0.39 cents a pound chicken. We have an occasional roast duck with a side of Hoisin Chinese broccoli. And as we sat around the table this year, I remembered that for as long as I can recall since childhood, it’s been my parents and I braving the unfamiliarities of America. We’ve come so far from that lonely family in a small college town. I’m thankful for all that my parents and I have been through all these years that’s brought us closer. And for the next 25 years as my husband and I start new traditions, I will never forget my first Christmas. And as long as my parents are still around, I will make sure we will continue our Christmas day tradition. So from the our families to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Disclaimer: I would just like to say that I was using my dad's empty beer can to "gan-bei" with. No, I did not drink WITH my parents at the age of 8. Happy holidays!