How do food, culture connect us?

The Wolf Staff

Every year during the holidays, the familiar spread of dishes decorate the table, with family and friends filling the room with laughs, smiles and stories. Our own little newspaper family all shared time with one another, passing on our traditions and sharing dishes close to our hearts. 

Whether your Thanksgiving tables are filled with the typical turkey and stuffing, piled high with lumpia or laden with latkes stacked up on plates, everyone’s holidays are surrounded by food. Imagine when you were little, tip-toes on the stool to reach the counter, or maybe you and your siblings were performing a play with olive puppets. Food creates memories with scents, sights and tastes. 

In our diverse staff on The Wolf, there have been many traditions shared, and they all lead to how our families, cultures and dishes connect to the holidays. Often our parents pass along the dishes that have been kept through generations, with their parents bringing influences from the countries they were born in. The endless variety and combinations of flavors make each table unique, allowing our various histories to be passed down through the generations.

In the past couple months, preparation for the holiday season began with Thanksgiving. As time goes on, the excitement for that holiday seems to dwindle, and the origins of the feasts are at a crossroads as to whether or not they should be celebrated. In elementary school, we all remember the pilgrim hat crafts and cutting paper feathers to make “headdresses.” Take a second. See the problem? We were all told that the English were thanking the Native Americans for showing them how to gather and produce food–the English would not have stood a chance if the Wampanoag people had not stepped in and helped–and connected over a meal. However, this show of  “gratitude” quickly turned into destruction of Indigenous cultures and the spread of disease and death. It is a dark reality of what this American holiday means to many communities. So is it still okay to celebrate?

The holidays are a time to show the people we love what they mean to us and spend time with relatives and friends that maybe aren’t consistently in our lives. Sometimes the origins of holidays are sad and regretful. However, learning from that past, future holidays can be used to show gratitude and educate ourselves on respectful ways to celebrate. The Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address is a great resource to read and share to learn about giving thanks and praising the virtues in our lives. 

Surround yourself with loved ones during the holidays, cook your family’s secret recipes and remember what the Holiday Season should be focused on. There are several holidays that occur in the month of December, each representing various cultures and faiths. Being able to share with people from different backgrounds creates open-minds and awareness of all the other celebrations people look forward to during this time.

 In some situations, there are families who have lost connections with their cultures, or haven’t had traditions passed down from previous generations. With our newspaper staff, about half of the staff brought foods inspired by their cultural traditions. But for the other half, instead, their families create new activities or dishes each year. In one family, for Christmas dinner, everyone had to create their own special sandwich, so the table was just full of various interpretations of what a sandwich can be. This is an inspiring idea because it allows family and friends to be creative on their own and share their personal creations with people they love.  

The holidays are a beautiful time to celebrate our pasts, but we can also be creative with how these days are celebrated. Grab a friend, coworker and even your teachers, and take a second to learn about what they’re excited about. Who knows? Maybe it’ll add inspiration to your holiday spread!