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Holidays, Happier: Start a New Family Tradition

Nurture your family’s holiday food traditions across cultures.

Photo by Kelsey Banfield

My tiny mother gained Herculean strength around the Indian New Year in late November. She seemed to simultaneously stir cinnamon-scented rice pudding, chop almonds for semolina-almond pudding, and grate carrots for sweet milk-carrot halva. My favorite “helping” activity was to hold the precious saffron threads before sprinkling them over the desserts. The saffron stained my tiny fingers crimson and left a lingering aroma: the smell of happiness.I wanted to revive these beloved holiday food traditions with my two American-born children, but to my dismay, they were not excited.Then one Christmas I noticed that they loved to spend time with their American godparents, Janet and Jim, doing something I had never done as a child: baking cookies. It was just not part of my North Indian family’s culture. But my sons showed a remarkable aptitude for it. I watched in envy as they rolled the dough with their tiny hands and waited impatiently while the cookies baked. “We made whiskey balls, sugar cookies, moldy mice, anise cookies, and gingerbread,” they announced proudly. I wondered sadly if my own traditions were …

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