Families celebrate the winter holidays in different ways

Celebrating their religion and values, families come together to enjoy a variety of winter holidays. This is so that the families can honor their long-time traditions.

To honor their traditions, whether they are culinary, religious, decorative or commemorative, families in the Souderton area celebrate their winter holidays by practicing and recognizing the meaning of the holiday.
For senior Abby Tammaro, her favorite part of Hanukkah is the togetherness.
“Sometimes, if I’m working or my brother is at school, we don’t get to have time together so it’s a good time [to see each other.]”
According to Tammaro, her family typically lights the menorah at night as her mom sings a special song.
Junior Jordyn Grossman also celebrates Hanukkah. According to Grossman, her family goes over to her grandmother’s house to have a family dinner and spend time together. Grossman loves it because she is “really close” to her cousins.
According to sophomore Athena Peterson, she loves to make pierogies when she and her family celebrate Russian Orthodox Christmas.
“It’s fun when we get to make and pick out the little pierogis that we want,” Peterson said. “Sometimes there’s money in there, there’s candy, cabbage or something completely different.”
Throughout her 22 years in Russia, before she migrated to America, Peterson’s mother, Irina’s favorite part about celebrating in Russia is going around to collect candy and money.
“The night before Christmas we would dress in funny costumes and go around the neighborhood offering to eat special Christmas rice pudding, sing songs and get candy and money for it,” Irina said.
Senior Caitlin Le finds that spending time with her family and exchanging money is the best part of the Chinese New Year. According to Le, the adults give the kids money.
“I like that part because obviously there’s money, but I really like to spend time with my family by cleaning the house and things like that,” Le said.
During Christmas, most people have a big dinner with staple foods such as turkey or ham, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and stuffing. For other winter holidays such as Hanukkah, there are also “beloved foods.”
When Tammaro was younger her mom would make potato pancakes called latkes with applesauce “almost every night” because Tammaro “liked them so much.”
For Peterson, her family is small, so she doesn’t have a big meal. “We make pierogies, salad and then we make a cake called Napoleon cake.” According to Peterson, her family also makes “typical American food” to go along with the Russian food.
According to Irina, the filling in these Russian ravioli (or pierogies) would have meanings for the year ahead.
For example, one filled with honey could mean “sweet events waiting for you.” Even salt and pepper is a possibility. “They’re kind of like fortune cookies,” Irina said.
For Grossman, she doesn’t have a traditional meal and eats whatever her grandmother makes on the day she’s there. Despite this, one food that is made every year is potato latkes, also known as potato pancakes. The latkes are made of fried potatoes and onions. “They’re my favorite because I eat them only once a year,” Grossman said.
Le and her family eat all different types of Chinese food when they go out to Chinatown after their other festivities such as cleaning their house and wearing new clothes to “start off the new lunar year right.”
“I would say my favorite food there is the dumplings,” Le said.
For Tammaro and her family, they celebrate Hanukkah more for the traditions, as they’re not very religious. “Hanukkah has kind of turned into what Christmas is today. It’s more about being with your family,” Tammaro said.
According to Le, the Chinese New Year celebration lasts for 14 days, but they only celebrate for one or two days. The Le family starts off the tradition by cleaning their house and wearing their new clothes. After that, they go to Chinatown and eat.
“If it’s a weekend we’ll go to a dragon festival,” Le said. “People gather around and there’s all this red confetti, dancers and a dragon going through the street.”
According to Grossman, she and her family light the candles of the menorah every night for eight nights.
For Peterson and her mother, Russian Orthodox Christmas is like a normal Christmas, but with some cultural differences.
“People would speak Russian. [Traditionally,] we wouldn’t exchange gifts because Russians exchange them on New Year’s, but since we’re sort of an American family, we do,” Peterson said.
According to Irina, when she was growing up in Russia, she celebrated Russian Orthodox Christmas somewhat similar to an American Christmas.
“On January 1, Russian Santa would bring us gifts at night. I remember how my brother and I would stay up all night just to catch him,” Irina said.
Tammaro celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas so she can see both sides.
“At school here, we do spirit week so I wore my Hanukkah socks today because we don’t really do much for [the holiday,]” Tammaro said.
According to Tammaro, because of the lack of recognition, she “would feel left out” if she celebrated only Hanukkah and not Christmas, too.
According to Grossman, it doesn’t affect her as she still loves the Christmas lights and trees and she feels “festive” during the season.
“For us, it’s not like it’s the biggest holiday of the year. There’s still Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah as well a Passover.” Grossman said.