My Biracial Thanksgiving

My Biracial Thanksgiving

Healthy Meal Plan© CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

Megan Munce, Assistant Online Editor

The identity crisis began in the third grade when we first learned about the pilgrims.

“What’s the point of Thanksgiving if we aren’t going to eat turkey?” I complained to my Chinese mother time and time again. To me, it seemed ludicrous to celebrate a holiday heralded as Turkey Day by eating rice, fried fish, and tofu soup.

Yet my Chinese family is only half of my heritage. With my father’s Scottish relatives, I enjoy perhaps the most quintessential American Thanksgiving out there: my aunt overcooks a turkey, my cousins toss a football around in the middle of the street, and everyone coos over the latest bouncing baby.

Especially as a child, the difference between my two Thanksgivings–one in which my nǎinai makes hot and sour soup and the other in which my grandma makes a strange mixture of marshmallow and canned fruit called “ambrosia”–befuddled me.

In fact, I often rejected the idea of my Chinese family Thanksgiving to even be “Thanksgiving”–for years I would endlessly frustrate my mother by insisting it was simply another casual family dinner that happened to fall annually in November.

However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate everything that my Chinese family has gone through and represents. For me, part of Thanksgiving means more than celebrating some religious refugees in a far off century,  it means celebrating some much more recent pilgrims: my mother’s family.

From fleeing Communist China to living alone in the slums of São Paolo to finally finding a home here in San Jose, no matter how many corners of the country my mother’s family has spread to, we always come together in the dining room of my aunt’s Saratoga house, crowding around a circular table and passing around a mixture of the traditional dishes my aunts and uncles make with the “modern” mashed potatoes that my cousins prepare.

Meanwhile, I can get together with my father’s family and reminisce about my grandfather’s parents, who immigrated from Scotland, and my grandmother’s antics claiming that not only are we descended from an original pilgrim from the Mayflower, but that we are also related to the British royal family as well as American royalty: the Kennedys.

Despite my growing appreciation of both cultural experiences,  I became increasingly aware of the fact that not everyone enjoys this melting of cultures, and that some people choose not to acknowledge that they are more than one ethnicity.

In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, only 1.4% of adults in America identify themselves as being more than one race, while an estimated 6.9% of adults are actually multiracial.

Therefore, the most important part of Thanksgiving for me is celebrating my two, separate but equal, cultures. On one night I struggle to keep up with conversations in my limited Mandarin, in the other I experience something plucked straight out of a TV special.

My two cultures have shaped my identity in the same way that my two Thanksgivings have shaped my stomach to be two times its normal size. Whether  basted turkey or fried fish, my Thanksgiving tradition is in a way an extension of me: equally Chinese, equally Scottish, and most definitely equally delicious.