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A Non-Traditional Tradition of Giving Thanks

By Wayne Chan

There are a number of things about Thanksgiving I don’t really understand.

I’m completely familiar with everything to do with Thanksgiving, because like everyone else in the country, we go through the same celebration year after year. But that doesn’t mean I understand it.

I was born and raised in the U.S., and I took history lessons just like everyone else. I know about the Mayflower, the colonists landing at Plymouth Rock in the 1600’s and the pilgrims. I also think the act of being thankful is something worth celebrating.

What I don’t really understand is the food.

Maybe it’s because growing up in a Chinese household, it seems strange that there are several things we eat on Thanksgiving that we rarely ever eat any other time of the year.

Take the turkey, for example. I don’t ever remember eating turkey at a Chinese or any other Asian restaurant for any purpose whatsoever. We eat lots of other fowl though – chicken, duck, goose, pigeon, quail – it’s all fair game in Chinese cuisine, but no turkey.

And is it just a happenstance that when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and they needed to eat, that the turkey was just the unlucky fowl walking around at the time? If they pilgrims had landed in Maine, would we all be celebrating Thanksgiving with our Thanksgiving lobster? That’s a tradition I could get behind.

Another thing – could somebody please explain to me the rationale behind eating turkey along with cranberry sauce? Please point out any other meal where you eat any kind of meat smothered in some kind of jam? Why don’t I see anyone eating prime rib slathered with a thick layer of orange marmalade? Sauteed halibut with blueberry jam? That makes just as much sense to me.

The one twist we have in our Thanksgiving feast is along with the stuffing, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole, my lovely wife Maya makes her famous sticky rice. This is a dish using short grained sticky rice, added with Chinese sausage, mushrooms, and dried shrimp. I can’t get enough of it. The pilgrims don’t know what they were missing.

Still, there is one traditional tradition of our Thanksgiving celebration that I can wholeheartedly get behind. I mentioned it earlier – a time to give thanks for all that we have. And this year, I’d like to give thanks to someone who is pretty much like a second mother to me – my aunt Lucy.

For as long as I can remember, my Aunt Lucy has been an important part of my life. She’s been there for just about every milestone in my life. And since my mom passed away a few years ago, she has been a blessing to me and my family, just in the way she shows her love for all of us.
This Thanksgiving was no different. My kids are adults now, but even still, when Aunt Lucy is around, I feel like that same 8-year-old boy who starts nodding at my auntie when she tells me to do something, like put more lotion on my hands because she thinks my skin is dry.

She’s the only one who can send me scrambling as I look frantically, thinking – where’s the lotion? Where’s the lotion?

At the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, as I gently help Auntie Lucy back to the car to get her back home, I give thanks to her that for over 50 years, there’s someone in my life who shows her love by telling me to put on more lotion on my hands. I can’t be more thankful than that.


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