Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sushi for Thanksgiving anyone?

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and I just haven't been able to get my act together. This means we'll probably be skipping the traditional Thanksgiving dinner while we're in Japan. I'm not sure that it's worth it to try to prepare a traditional American Thanksgiving meal. Instead, I'm contemplating ways in which to share the holiday with my in-laws. How can I inform them about what the holiday means in the U.S. and more specifically what it means to me? And this isn't just for the benefit of my in-laws. Having a daughter has made me re-think holidays and family traditions. What holidays do we observe and what traditions do we honor?

Coming from different backgrounds and cultures, it's no surprise that my husband and I have different opinions about how (or if) to celebrate various holidays. Up until now, we've operated under the philosophy that if it's important to one of us, it's worth having the both of us honor the holiday. For example, I never particularly celebrated New Year's Eve or New Year's Day until my husband shared some of the Japanese traditions with me. After several years of celebrating this holiday with his family, I decided it was worthwhile for us to find a way to celebrate it in our own way when we couldn't travel to Japan a couple of years ago. I ordered the お節料理 (osechi-ryôri). We purchased a pre-made version of the traditional Japanese New Year's breakfast and celebrated in style at home. My husband appreciated that I initiated this idea and that we started our own family tradition of sorts.

Now that we're in Japan, I'm struggling with how to institute or maintain the family traditions that I have often associated with holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not only do I long for the familiarity of traditions when I'm away from home, but I think that lasting impact of sharing traditions with our daughter will be significant. And frankly, I think that once we grow up and move away from our families of origin, it's harder to maintain that sense of continuity and tradition no matter where we go whether it's 20 miles from home, or 2,000. Even when we lived in Seattle, I struggled with how much to do and what to do to make the holidays come alive. Having started a family gives new life and importance to this mission. I have some ideas of what I'd like to do to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas (I'm focused on the immediate future for now!), but I'd love to hear from others. What kind of old family traditions have you carried over and instituted in your own families? Are there new traditions that you've started, especially once you've moved away from your families of origin? Have you found any creative ways to maintain a tradition despite the challenges posed by living in a new location (i.e. difficulties finding foods or supplies/resources in your new home)?


  1. We celebrate the major Japanese, American, and Chinese holidays in our family. I'd celebrate the major American holidays to an extent that is comfortable for you all. Maybe you could also try looking into one of the places that take phone orders or even online orders for turkey and other traditional Thanksgiving items for delivery in Japan...?

    (Thanks for visiting my blog, btw!)

  2. I don't have any answers for you, we are struggling with the same things. Although my husband and I share the same culture, living 2200 miles from our families mean that we have to invent our own traditions. For both of us, our favorite memories are of times spent with large extended families, and that just isn't possible here. Since the baby is still only 8 months, we aren't putting too much pressure on ourselves this year. But it's something that is always on my mind.

  3. My husband (Japanese) is not a holiday celebrator. Not Japanese nor US holidays. I make an effort to do something around Christmas - decorate the house and make a dinner of sorts. But, we are basically failing in the holiday realm. Now that we have a toddler, we need to ramp up the celebrations so she will have those important traditions. Not sure how!