From Slovakia to Korea, Minnehaha students celebrate the holidays in unique and diverse ways
Whether the snow has fallen on the ground, or the evergreen trees are decorated in shop windows, the knowledge that Christmas is near brings joy to many people. The joy may come from future presents, family reunions or from the most “filling” part of Christmas: the food.
For many students at Minnehaha, Christmas is characterized: A Christmas tree perching in some room, covered with twinkling lights. A wreath hanging on the front door and Christmas music lulling even the most sullen characters, but for these MA students Christmas differs not just in traditions and decorations but also in food.
Freshman Meena Morar comes from a Romanian and an Indian heritage. For her, Christmas is the time when her family comes together to make a Romanian cake called Cozonac cu nuca. Nuca means nuts, which is why Morar’s particular mixture of Cozonac is filled with many walnuts.
“Some can have chocolate, some could have raisins, but the recipe we usually use is with nuts,” said Morar.
The cake dough is meticulously kneaded by multiple family members as Morar’s grandmother and mother (who comprise the Romanian side of the family) look fondly at a part of their culture being shared.
“I remember when I was little I would always knead it up until my forearms were [covered] full of dough,” said Morar. “It’s just a long process. It’s really not difficult but no one wants to knead it.”
When describing the cake Morar relates it to another cake called Panettone, an Italian cake that is filled with raisins. According to Morar the two cakes share the common characteristic of sweetness.
“We aren’t super traditional Romanians, we don’t eat Romanian food,” said Morar. “My grandma has been here for a long time, my mom has been here for more than 20 years. We’re American.”
Though Cozonac isn’t made every Christmas, Morar enjoys being able to look back at her past and connect it with her present.
For junior Hayoung Lim the Christmas season seems pretty busy. Lim’s parents, who are pastors, work for the Salvation Army as bell ringers. The bell ringing season, which begins in November and runs through Christmas Eve, leaves little time for the busy family to then also prepare for Christmas in full capacity.
After Christmas and before the New Year Lim gets a chance to relax. “I sleep a bunch, watch a lot of TV, and bake a lot,” said Lim.
One thing Lim has noticed is that though the amount of Korean food cooked daily has decreased there are some patterns.
“My mom used to make a lot of Korean food [on a more day-to-day basis],” said Lim. But now Lim has noticed that his mother cooks certain foods pertaining to different times of the year.
“She makes only certain foods in winter,” said Lim.
Some of the winter foods include Bin Dae Duk, Duk Mandu Guk (see recipe top right), and Soondooboo Jjigae (a beef and shrimp stew).
“I would have to say my favorite dish is Soondooboo,” said Lim. “Whenever you hear the ingredients in Korean food it sounds so nasty but it’s so good.”
A signature dish for senior Maddey Parker and her family is krumkake. The Scandinavian dish is a light, thin cookie that is relatively easy to make (see recipe bottom right).
“Christmas is the time where we have more of our Scandinavian traditions while eating things like Swedish meat balls and Swedish sausage,” said Parker.
The Parker family is pretty close-knit, Parker who belongs to an immediate family of seven (including her) and an extended family of about 30 she has always had a Christmas filled with siblings, cousins and adults.
“My cousin’s grandpa brought the tradition to my family,” said Parker. “We are really close and I call him [the grandpa] Larry.”
Though just a food krumkake reminds Parker of the good times: no matter who is born and who may pass away, the foods consumed and made each Christmas season are an exhibition of the family that continually shows their love for her.
One tradition senior Audrey Fermanich has always seen at Christmas is the making of Perogis.
“We go to the Latvian Bazaar every year,” said Fermanich, “My grandma on my mom’s side is Latvian [and] she brought the tradition.”
The Fermanich family comes together and creates multiple batches of the dish in order to save for days to follow. The grueling task requires multiple hands which is why Fermanich’s mother, grandmother and a neighbor come over to aid in the two-day ordeal.
“You have to wait for the dough to rise,” said Fermanich. “And then you have to make the stuffing for the inside, and then you have to wrap the dough around the bacon.”
Though time-consuming, Fermanich says that she is joyful to be a part of the cooking crew because when all the dough is wrapped and the dishes are cleaned and put away all that’s left to do is to wait and anticipate each “delicious” bite.
“It’s going to be kind of weird [spending Christmas in America] because I’m not going to be with my family,” said Spanish amity Estefania Mantas.
Mantas came to America from Capellades, Spain. Since she was young she always spent the Christmas season with her family and one thing, other than her family, she is going to miss is the celebration of El Dia de Los Reyes.
Beginning in the late night of Jan 5. Three Kings Day is an exciting time for both children and adults. It comes from the nativity story of three kings, traveling from faraway lands in order to find baby Jesus. Upon arrival to the manger the three kings brought with them gold, frankincense and myrrh.
“The fifth of January is a big day because it’s when all the kids receive their presents,” said Mantas. “That day at night when you have dinner with all of your family we eat Roscon de Reyes, it’s like a king cake. The cake is a circle, and then inside there is a fake bean and then there’s also a little king figure. When you’ve got it [a piece of the cake] and everyone’s got it you say, ‘let’s see who’s the king, and who’s the one that is going to find the bean.’ When you eat it, the one that has the bean is supposed to pay [for] that cake and the one who gets the king puts on the crown [which is also in the center of the cake].”
But the kids never have to pay for the cake even if they do find the bean.
“It’s like an excuse to get all the family together,” said Mantas.
The joy that comes from finding a bean or a king is momentary but “just getting together with the family is the main thing. It’s going to be kind of weird, but I’ve also got, here, an American family, and it’s going to be exciting to experience how you [Americans] celebrate here at Christmas.”
“We have a desert which is the Buche,” said French amity Laëtitia Lompech. “It’s like a Rhodes cake with very fat chocolate inside. It’s very good.”
The words just rolled off as Lompech recollected some of the foods she ate for Christmas. From Clerment-Ferrand, France, Lompech claimed many of the foods eaten from Clerment-Ferrand at Christmas time were similar to those eaten in America, but a few exceptions were Gratin Dauphinois and a duck liver pâté.
“Gratin is sliced potatoes with cream and cheese on top,” said Lompech excitedly.
“The tradition is my grandfather makes foie all the time for Christmas.” She said.
Foie, which is liver in French, is a delicacy. Taken from a duck or a goose, the liver is cooked and softened into pâté form and placed on the table ready to consume.
“You have to eat this [the pâté] every Christmas,” said Lompech. “I like his [her grandfather’s pâté], but I don’t like the one you buy.”
Like Mantas, being away from home is the biggest difference that will be felt this Christmas season.
“I’m going to miss the Buche very bad. I love it,” said Lompech. “[But] I’m going to miss the family gatherings, and being with my parents and grandparents.”
In Slovakia Christmas is celebrated on Dec. 24 The day is known as “The Generous Eve.”
“Our dinner consists of many meals. The first is more of an appetizer. It is called Olpåtky, which are something like thin waffles,” wrote junior Tereza Šinkovícová. “We usually put honey on them.”
Another food common to the Šinkovícová family is a soup that is creamy. The soup has fish and potatoes in it.
Senior Dajana Kubán pointed out that though the fish soup is common, more so for Catholics, a cabbage soup called tapustnica is also common (among Lutherans).
“[After dinner] we as a family then go to the family room where we have the Christmas tree. We give presents to each other while eating fruits and sweets, and we celebrate the birth of our God,” wrote Šinkovícová.
The later afternoon of “The Generous Eve” is one that brings fond memories to Kuban.
“Christmas Eve is when you go and knock on people’s doors and sing Christmas carols [as a family]” said Kubán.
The following days, on the Dec. 25 and 26 families come together.
“You’re not supposed to work, you are supposed to get together with family,” said Kuban. “It’s more like Thanksgiving here.”
Šinkovícová and Kubán will return home just in time for Christmas, just in time for the Olpåtky, tapustnica and the family.
“I’m black, white, Mexican and two percent Indian [Native American],” said senior Jahleel Davis.
Davis and his younger brother, freshman Simeon Davis, come from a very diverse background that comes together on holidays like Christmas.
“For holidays we usually go over to probably like three [different] people’s houses and talk to them,” said Davis. “We chill out, watch TV, tell stories, [and] talk about funny things.”
In the season of giving and sharing each family that arrives brings with them a dish to augment to the previous foods.
“Some of my family is Mexican [and] they make this thing called Posole,” said Davis. “Posole is like a soup that has chicken in it. It tastes really good and it’s hot, flavorful, and spicy.”
But this Christmas is going to feel different for Davis.
“This year for the first year we probably won’t be together,” said Davis. “A lot of our family is starting to move away from Minnesota. My uncle moved to Arizona because he works over there and my aunt now lives in Las Vegas and she works in the hospital over there.”
Though a change, these moves don’t faze Davis.
“It’s not really [that hard for me when they leave] because they still come back to visit a lot.”
In the midst of all the “turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, greens, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, the mashed potatoes and gravy,” and the Posole, Christmas with the Davis’ shines a light on a blended family coming together.