Tag Archives: holiday food

Thanksgiving Ham

Text: “My family always buys pre-sliced ham from our local grocery shop on Thanksgiving, and it’s really good with the special glaze that it comes with. It’s like this honey pineapple type glaze that’s sweet and then you combine the sweet with the savory from the ham, and it’s just an amazing concoction.”


Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California studying human biology, originally from St. Louis, Missouri from Nigerian descent. We speak alongside a few of her other friends, and she carries a somewhat sarcastic, comedic tone.

“It’s a classic Thanksgiving staple in our family. And I honestly prefer eating the ham over turkey any day anytime. We began doing it when we moved into my new house which is my current house back at home. So probably 2013, 2014 ish. I think we do it because it’s way easier to prepare than a Turkey, and it tastes better. I’ve heard of other people doing it, but not for Thanksgiving more for Christmas. This tradition makes me feel so excited to wake up on Thanksgiving morning. I can smell the sweet, savory aroma of the ham tickle my nostrils. Wow.”

Analysis: Having this specific dish on a certain holiday is an example of a ritual. It is a ritual which commemorates something, namely the early days of colonized America. It is performed within a certain group of people at a specific time of year. It is also an example of ritual inversion in how modern folk tradition places ham on the menu for Christmas and turkey on the menu for Thanksgiving, but the informant’s family reverses these traditions. They are able to invert the normal social rules because they have claimed their own celebration as their own time for traditions and rituals.

Eid Celebration


“We do Ramadan, that’s like fasting sunrise to sunset. After Ramadan there’s Eid, but in my language it’s called Tabaski. Basically you fast for a little bit and you do the same prayer over and over again, to pray for all your sins, it will go on for hours sometimes. And then you sacrifice a lamb, cook it, and eat it. We go to a Muslim halal place and they’ll sacrifice the lamb for us and we’ll get the whole body and cook it. There’s two, the bigger eid is towards the end of the year. It changes every year, but the second eid is bigger, but I don’t remember the reason. It’s a whole party. My brother was born near Eid and so they had three full sized lambs for him and for eid. My grandpa actually breeds his own lamb every year and either kills the baby or the father. The lamb probably represents something, but I don’t really know, it’s just something we’ve always done. Eid is celebrating the end of Ramadan, it might also be some sort of anniversary but I don’t remember.” 


Y is a 19-year-old college student from Denver, Colorado. Her parents were born in Dakar, Senegal, and her siblings lived there for a few years. Her parents speak Wolof, which is from Senegal. She and her family are Muslim, so they practice these holidays every year. She doesn’t really know the whole religious significance of them, but she knows they’re sacred and important. She mainly sees them as important holidays she spends with her family that mean a lot to them as physical representations of their faith and as a tradition their family does together every year.


Eid and Ramadan are important holidays in the Islam religion. Eid specifically is marked with the ritual killing and eating of a lamb, so lamb is a very important food to eat at that time. The second Eid, which she says is called Korité, is a party marked by celebration. Analysis of this piece cannot actually get into the analysis of symbolism of the lamb and what the holidays mean in a religious sense, because the informant is actually a passive bearer of that knowledge. She is an active participant in the holiday and rituals because they are a family practice. Religion is interesting because people can be part of that faith and actively participate in the customs, without actually knowing all the reasoning and religious background for it. I think we may be seeing more of that in young people as religion becomes something that is culturally less important in America. Young people are less expected to be largely invested in religion, as American culture looks to science and reason instead of religion. Of course, religion is still hugely important in shaping America, especially Christian and Abrahamic religions. But in big cities, less and less young people are fully knowledgeable about religion. This doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of faith though. Many people still believe in a God or a higher power, and try to live by that religion’s customs to their best extent without fully dedicating their whole life to religion. Y is an example of a young person who is able to hold on to their identity and faith as a Muslim, without knowing all of the religious specifics. Religious practices for her and many young people have become important because it’s something they do with their family and something their family finds to be very important, not out of absolute dedication to the religion.

Holiday meal: Dried Oyster and Black Moss

My informant E is from Hong Kong, China and there is a traditional dish that is eaten during Chinese New Year with dried oysters and black moss. E said that “Dried Oyster and Black Moss” is a Southern Chinese dish that is eaten on Chinese New Year because everyone wants to start the new year with health, prosperity, and wealth, which is what the dish translates to phonetically in Cantonese. They explained how “ho see” (dried oyster) sounds like the word for good deeds and “fat choy” (black moss) sounds very similar to the word for wealth and prosperity. As this dish relies heavily on the phonetics of Cantonese, E told me that it is not a very common dish outside of Cantonese homes.

Growing up in Eastern China, I had heard of this dish before, but I never had the pleasure of trying it. However, I have had dishes that have those ingredients in them as they are very popular and common vegetables in China. Dried oysters and black moss can be found in almost every Chinese market or grocery store and most families had them stored in their fridge or pantry. In Eastern Chinese culture, it is common to eat hotpot on Chinese New Year. “Hotpot” is a dish where you have an electric heating pot (hotpot) that you cook soup stock in and add in a variety of ingredients to cook like thinly sliced meats, vegetables, seafood, basically anything that cooks fast, in the stock and pull out when they are cooked and ready to eat.

Holiday – Día de los Reyes


“The holiday is the Day of the Kings…in Spanish, it’s Día de los Reyes…it’s a Catholic celebration but I think it’s predominantly celebrated in Spanish countries. What we do…in my family and in many other Mexican families there is a tradition where you eat a bread…like a crowned bread…it’s sweet and has decorations on top and you hide little toys in the bread…little baby Jesuses. Depending on the size of the bread (la rosca), you go around the family cutting the slices and if you end up getting a slice with a baby Jesus in it that means that on Children’s Day, you have to take a certain traditional dish. Usually in my family, we make tamales. We celebrate it every year even though my family is not very much Catholic , but we are Catholic in our beliefs. We come together to spend it as a family. My mom makes hot cocoa. My grandma is the one who buys the la rosca and we have to buy two because our family keeps expanding. The Day of the Kings is celebrated January 6th and February 2nd is the day you celebrate the treats if you get the baby Jesus…you rejoice in being a family once again together. It’s a feast day you could say…it’s just to celebrate the epiphany that the three kings brought their gifts to Jesus when he was born…honors his baptism and pays homage to the three wise men…that’s basically what we do.


One of my roommates is Mexican and she was sharing with me this holiday that occurs on January 6th every year. She mentioned that her family celebrates this holiday every year even though they are not very much Catholic devoted. She “grew up with the tradition” and continues to celebrate this holiday surrounded by family members. She said that there was a moment in time when she asked her parents what this tradition was and she said that it is mainly a tradition among Mexican households to simply celebrate it. She went on to say that it’s a national celebration in Mexico even if you are not religious and “people come together just to do it simply for the family aspect.”


This Mexican holiday is celebrated to honor the Three Wise Men. Despite its religious roots, even those who are not as religious will celebrate this holiday. Other holidays around wintertime hide some sort of item inside of a baked good. This adds to the enjoyment of the time by adding this game element. As time goes on, it can be seen that this holiday has changed in certain aspects. Many parts of the holiday have religious implications, but in today’s society, not everyone emphasizes those aspects as much. This holiday is recognized as more of a time to enjoy the company of family and friends. Oftentimes you will see this where traditions are continued even though certain aspects of that tradition are lost.

Lentil Salad=Money

RITUAL DESCRIPTION: Consumption of lentil salad on New Years Eve to bring wealth.


CONTEXT: This woman told me that her most prized ritual is that every New Years Eve she and her family would eat lentil salad in order to call wealth. She said the little lentils symbolize coins. Her mother and entire family did this as she grew up. The little “coins” are meant to be abundance and eating them is calling wealth into the upcoming year.

THOUGHTS: I see how lentils could be like little coins. I find this ritual interesting because lentil salad is popular in France but I never knew it had this double meaning. It seems to make sense although I’ve never heard of such an interesting food on New Years Eve.