What holidays do you celebrate at the end of the year?
Christmas is the big one in my family, but we celebrate New Year’s too.
What are some of your Holiday traditions?
My family is Christian, so for Christmas we go to church on Christmas Eve, and then we go to my aunt’s house. We’re Italian so instead of the traditional American Christmas dinner, we have Italian food like pastas, salads and charcuterie boards. Then, on Christmas day we open presents from immediate family in the morning, and then we go to another aunt’s house for brunch. There we have more traditional breakfast foods like gingerbread pancakes, sausage balls, biscuits and fruit salad. Christmas is interesting for us because it’s also my birthday. My family is really good about keeping Christmas and my birthday separate. In the morning we do Christmas presents and, in the evening, we celebrate my birthday. I don’t like birthday cake so instead I always get a big bowl of salted peanuts and one of those fancy cheese balls with the fancy nuts on it. That’s been my ‘birthday cake’ for as long as I can remember.
On New Year’s Eve, we stay up till midnight and we’ll have food spread out on the table and hang out in the living room. I live in Raleigh and the city has a tradition of dropping this huge acorn in the middle of downtown. Raleigh’s the city of oaks so we love acorns. Instead of the big ball drop in New York, we watch them drop a huge acorn. Last year was the first time I watched them drop it in person, but usually I’ll watch it on tv with my family and then go to bed.
What’s your favorite part of these holiday traditions?
My favorite part of the holidays is going to brunch at my aunt’s house on Christmas day. That’s when I get to see all of my cousins and we open all of our presents together. I have a really big family. I think I have thirteen first cousins and its really nice to see the extended family because we really only have everyone together like that on big holidays. The meals with extended family are definitely the best part.
How did your family adjust your holiday traditions in response to the ongoing pandemic?
We didn’t do any of our normal traditions. We didn’t go to church or any of the big family meals because we’re really worried about our grandparents. My family has been staying safe during [the] COVID-19 [pandemic], but our biggest fear is that they could still catch it. Even though we couldn’t get together in person we were able to call everyone.
When I realized that we wouldn’t be able to have Christmas together it was really disappointing. Like the saying ‘disappointed but not surprised,’ we’ve known about the pandemic for a long time and I knew we wouldn’t be able to have big gatherings for a while but it was still sad because it was the first Christmas in a while that we haven’t all been together. Even though the coronavirus was technically an issue last December, no one knew much about it and it wasn’t as widespread here, so we still had Christmas together. It didn’t feel as special not being able to see my relatives, giving them their gifts and watching them open everything.
What is your craziest holiday memory?
Two or three years ago, my aunt and uncle from Hawaii were visiting us and we were all sitting in the living room and I don’t know what why, but my sister and I were arguing about something. I don’t even remember what we were arguing about which shows how trivial it was—and it was Christmas or Christmas Eve and she actually slapped me in the face so of course I slapped her back—in front of all of my relatives. My aunt and uncle sat there looking at each other like they didn’t want to get in the way of it, and my dad tries to diffuse tough situations, but he had a stroke about five years ago so it can be difficult to understand him at times. It was a really tense room, and my mom ended up yelling at us and we had to go to our rooms. It’s not a great memory, but we laugh about it now. I remember it so well because it was so bizarre, it definitely is not something that usually happens on Christmas.
What was your favorite gift that you received this year? That you gave?
My favorite gift this year is from my sister. She got me a ‘build your own miniature garden.’ She knows that I’m a really crafty person, and I really enjoy doing arts and crafts. This will be one of the big projects I’m working on. It’s my favorite gift of this year and something she knew I would really like and enjoy putting together.
I haven’t given this person their gift yet, but I made my friend an album of a mixtape that doesn’t sell physical copies. Her favorite member of BTS (a Korean pop band) is Yoongi. He does a lot of solo work, but he doesn’t sell physical albums, so I made her one. I made the inside cover of the album and put a sticker on the background that matched the CD inside, so it looked official. I even cut out photocards and put a track list on the back. I worked really hard on making her a physical album that doesn’t exist because it’s a really personal gift, there’s nothing else out there exactly like it.
For the past few years, and this year especially, a lot of people our age have been saying the holiday season doesn’t feel like the holidays. How do you respond to that?
I have to agree. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older, but the holidays don’t feel like they used to with all the buildup of excitement I felt when I was a kid. Maybe it’s because I’m in college and a lot of college students are stressed out. Also, when you get older you might not know what you want for Christmas. So, I guess the magic of Christmas diminishes as you get older but then it becomes about making it special for other people. Still, I definitely have to agree that it didn’t feel like Christmas this year or even in the past few years.
What did Christmas feel like to you as a child? What is the importance of Christmas to you now?
The magic of Christmas was in the excitement and buildup leading up to the [Dec.] 25 rather than the actual day. I would always feel really happy when I saw people going out and buying presents or seeing Christmas lights. There was a feeling of festivity everywhere, everything was Christmas themed and people were generally in a better mood because it was the holidays and I haven’t really noticed that for a while. As a kid the anticipation of waiting was where all of my excitement came from. Now, and I’m not really sure why, it’s not so easy to get excited about it.
What makes me happy now is making Christmas special for others. It’s not just about getting gifts but giving people things and seeing them react to that. I have a sister and I like to spoil her, and it’s a great time to give back to my parents. As a kid we couldn’t give our parents things and now that I’m more mature and can afford things, I like to show my appreciation for them by making it a nice Christmas. When you’re a kid you can’t really give back, but I want to take this opportunity to make Christmas special for my family like they did for me when I was a kid.
Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
This is something that I say every year, but I would like to focus on myself this year. Sometimes I don’t stick to it, but I’ve had a lot of time during this year for self-reflection. I know my flaws and areas I want to improve on. I want to focus on self-care and being the best version of me that I can be. I don’t have any specifics, last year I had resolutions like “drink more water,” but this year I want to focus on the mental health aspect of self-care. 2020 was rough but it was also a year when people were spreading a lot of positivity and encouraging thoughts that I would see online. That’s the kind of mindset I want to go into 2021 with.