Tradition Turnaround

Sri Lankan families are known for shoving food down your throat. Not only that, but we tend to take it as a personal insult if someone eats dinner before coming over, and if there’s not food left over after a party, then you clearly didn’t buy enough. When we go grocery shopping for any kind of celebratory meal, my dad’s catch phrase is notoriously, “Let’s get one more, just in case.”

Of course, my sister and I tend to put a foot down when “one more,” turns into five pounds of ground beef and an absurd number of ice cream bars that won’t get eaten. But when we come to visit, you can bet the fridge will be full of the most random assortment of ingredients you’ve ever seen since, despite his insistence on feeding the whole of the human population, my dad doesn’t understand how cooking works.

No, really. He bought a kettle that plugs into the wall so he wouldn’t have to use the stove.

His lack of enthusiasm for the actual cooking is made up for tenfold in my sister. She’s slightly obsessive and massively intellectual, so much so that she accidentally mentioned as the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes to my dad. So, naturally, we’re doing that for Christmas this year.

This is a little ridiculous because it’s not a tradition that’s even close to our cultural subcontinent. I guess that, because the Catholic population of Sri Lanka is essentially negligible, we decided to mooch off of another random country.

I’m almost certain that we did not do the Feast of the Seven Fishes the way it was meant to be done, but my dad was perfectly ecstatic. After some brainstorming, I came up with three possibilities as to why this tradition appealed to him so much.

  • Target doesn’t carry a salmon-scented candle for his apartment.
  • The incessant use of “fishy” puns is the epitome of Dad humor.
  • Traditions are kind of nice, even if they aren’t yours.

We’re not the best at keeping up with traditions. They were always a little too strained and a bit too tense for us. When we try to decorate the tree as a family, someone invariably gets annoyed that the ornaments aren’t evenly spaced. When we try to make cookies together, we get in each other’s ways too much. The closest we really have to a Christmas tradition is midnight mass and takeout curry. As everyone moves away and goes to school and spreads out, even that dwindled a little bit.

This year in particular, everything was different; my sister and I were both in college for the first time, both of us out of state. Both of our parents had moved, my mom was in Thailand with some friends, and, in the most adorable addition, my sister’s irritatingly curious cat was spending the holidays with us.

So, it stands to reason in some weirdly paradoxical way that we make ourselves a new tradition too.

A lot of us coming home from college for the first time are grasping at keeping the holiday traditions we’ve had. And that is so great. But (and this might be the first time I’ve ever said this), changing them up a little is great too.

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