Celebration Mash-Up (#316)

Holidays were huge in my white family. We wore green, pinched each other anyway, and listened to the Irish Rovers on St. Patrick’s Day (despite being Protestant or atheists). Small gifts appeared on Valentine’s Day morning. There were Easter egg hunts and chocolate bunnies. Our birthdays began with presents and towers of doughnuts. Christmas magic (and excesses) went on for days.

Holidays were not big in my Chinese-American husband’s family. Growing up, he got a red envelope with cash, usually from his Popo, on Chinese New Year.

That was it.

Even though some Wong family members were very earnest Christians, there were neither Easter baskets nor Christmas stockings.

Birthdays might involve going out for dim sum. There wasn’t even a cake until Andy turned 18—when his mom told Andy to pick one up for himself at the grocery store. Andy had a job at that point; I suspect he even had to pay for it.

Since holidays were the highlight of my childhood, I was horrified every time I discovered a new one Andy had “missed.”

You never carved a pumpkin?!” I’d screech. “What did you DO on Halloween, then?”

“Went trick-or-treating.”

“Oh, good. At least your parents let you do that.”

“Of course. The candy was free.”

I was sad for all the fun things Andy missed, but, even though he was the child of immigrants, Andy had a more secure childhood than I did. He was the apple of his mother’s—and his grandmother’s—eyes, the first male in two generations. As the much beloved Number One Son, his mother and grandmother constantly pushed him to eat more. When they went out for dim sum, there were always leftovers to bring home.

I had years on free lunch tickets, plus I had to guard my food from my hungry siblings. My parents were terrible cooks. When we went out to Shakey’s Pizza or McDonald’s (a HUGE treat!), there were never leftovers. Probably the reason we loved holidays was in no small part due to the abundance of food, especially sweets.

Andy, in turn, was horrified that a) I grew up without quite enough food, and b) Kraft Mac & Cheese with Hormel Chili was my favorite dinner.

Over the years, I introduced Andy to holiday fun. He showed me that cooking meals from scratch was tasty (and, when it wasn’t beef Wellington, economical).

Andy’s homemade mochi doughnuts.

This year, our child’s birthday, Chinese New Year, and Valentine’s Day fell within days of each other. Piles of candy and gifts accumulated on the dining room table. At that same table, I watched Baby D devour Andy’s homemade mochi doughnuts, Andy’s beef Wellington, carryout from Din Tai Fun, about twenty shrimp dumplings from the local dim sum joint, and Andy’s homemade chili and cornbread.

Baby D’s homemade cake.

Meanwhile, Andy watched me make a six-hour chocolate cake and arrange a surprise birthday COVID car parade for our kid. He laughed as I swapped out birthday balloons for red lanterns and lucky money envelopes for Baby D’s favorite See’s Candies so our kid could fully enjoy each special occasion.

After Valentine’s Day dinner, Andy surveyed the accumulated culinary/ holiday debris and said, “Our kid is spoiled.”

“We’re just giving him everything we wished we’d had,” I countered.

“But it’s so much!”

“Maybe you’re right. But there’s one really important Ashbough tradition left.”

“Even your family cannot possibly do anything for President’s Day.”

“Hahaha, no, we’re not celebrating problematic old white men. It’s something else.” I raised my voice and called, “Baby D! Come here! We have one more thing for you!”

Baby D ran into the kitchen. “Is it a giant gummi worm? More hong bao?”

I placed a towel in his outstretched hands and said,

“It’s the dishes.”

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

32 thoughts on “Celebration Mash-Up (#316)”

    1. I know, right? Kid lives the life all kids should have.

      On the other hand, he’s been known to get excited about having tater tots and dinosaur chicken nuggets at the neighbor kids’ houses.

  1. The cake and mochi doughnuts are beautiful, but Baby D is the cutest of all.

    Doing dishes was always a necessary ending for a holiday dinner in our house. Only the women and girls took part. But then, I didn’t have any brothers. When my husband cooked, he insisted on doing the dishes as he went along.

  2. Ha! Oh that’s a wonderful story. I love the smile on Baby D’s face. He’s a charmer.

    We had Kraft Mac and cheese with little bites of ham in it, but not the chili. The sodium content must have been off the charts, now that I think back on it.

    1. I think my parents also made Mac&Cheese into tunafish casserole which I found utterly disgusting. Spam or ham would have been better.

      It’s rare to catch Baby D smiling. He prefers to scowl at the camera.

  3. Up until 2019, Tara had never carved a pumpkin for Halloween, either. I had to show her how to do it. Last year, she was pushing for it even harder than I was. I guess this shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise given that she also rarely “bothered with” a Christmas tree before we started dating. Like you, I’m all about the holidays!

  4. The six hour cake reappears!
    Our holiday streak this year was a similar, but instead of a birthday we had Mardi Gras on Feb 16th. A little different all around with both Covid and an ice storm though.

      1. Watch videos of past parades, haha. I wasn’t up to making a king cake this year with the cold and constant threat of power loss.

        I’m sure next year will be different. Toddler will be more aware of holidays too.

  5. I love this story! So many great one line zingers that I love about your writing, especially the end!

    I can relate with Andy. I think my mom tried to celebrate these American holidays she was so unfamiliar with, and she half-failed trying to execute. And my dad was a lazy white male and didn’t step up to the plate to try hard and give us good holidays. So yeah, I was jealous of kids who actually got proper American holiday celebrations! Baby D is lucky he gets to live the best of both worlds (and pay up for them by doing the dishes!).

    My husband grew up just like Andy. I think the birthday cake I got him the first year we dated was the first one he ever got in his life, lol.

    1. Aw, thanks!

      Yeah, your mom trying to do American holidays is me trying to do Chinese ones. Only she didn’t have the internet and all these AMWF bloggers to help (and I still screw them up). I wonder what my kid is going to come out of life celebrating. Probably whatever his partner does…

  6. Well, that’s sorta true, that celebrations when I grew up in Canada, were simple or non-existent. Birthdays were occasionally recognized..some years. Maybe a pr. of socks and homemade steamed sponge cake. Really, I didn’t get all torqued since even as a child, I knew we didn’t have much money.

    Christmas was the biggest celebration..because of the tree thing, lights, Christmas carols and a dinner which was still Chinese.

    It’s only when all 6 of us grew up, left home, where gradually for my parents, Christmas, Thxgiving, and Chinese New Year became more rememberable. Not necessary consistent every yr. But a fantastic excuse for family gatherings…now with several grandchildren and great-grandchild.

    With the death of my father 7 yrs. ago, the celebrations are abit more quiet but treasured now. This may also change for Andy’s parents when they become older..

  7. My childhood holiday celebrations was more like Andy’s. My Chinese family didn’t celebrate holidays like Easter and Christmas and the fun holidays like Halloween, Valentine’s Day and birthdays were usually very modest affairs. I only remember one time my parents decided to have a big birthday party for me, and they probably did it reluctantly. Getting duck or going to yum cha was the way to celebrate an occasion or to have a fun time during a public holiday.

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