By Airec Sype
As I reminisce about my Christmas vacation, the overpowering memory of me sitting in my parents living room watching my six year old baby brother play Call of Duty on the PS3 underneath the 62’’ TV, as my eleven year old baby sister watched Ugly Betty on the iPad by the decorated artificial Christmas tree with wrapped presents underneath, this makes me wonder . . . where the fuck was my Christmas when I was 10 years old?
Growing up in the Central Valley, a predominantly White Christian Conservative area, the concept of Asian culture was foreign to kids of other ethnic culture in grade school. So a question I was often asked was, “Do Asians celebrate Christmas?”
Yes. Yes Asians do celebrate Christmas, you racist!
LOL, well let me elaborate on that. Yes and no, and well kind of.
For my family, it was after my spawning that my parents decided to embrace and celebrate Christmas. I am the first born, oldest of nine, so I consider myself to be the test subject of their experiment with integrating into American culture. English is my second language (now my primary language), so that meant that Lao/Thai culture came first and American culture and practices came second. And the wonderful commercial holiday that I love was no exception to this rule growing up in a gradually assimilating household.
Before we get into my trail and “failures” of the American Christmas experience, let’s have a little history lesson shall we . . . and this Asian version of Twas The Night Before Christmas.
Christmas is a predominantly Christian/Catholic holiday in America with a splash of American commercialism. So seeing how Christianity isn’t the primary religion in Asia, jolly ole Christmas came later-on when DIFFERENT Asian countries (I want to emphasize this fact, despite the whole “Asians look the same” concept, that there are different kinds of Asians) adopted the holiday after being colonized and subjugated to the oppressors religion or just simply because they were memorized after witnessing the magic of Xmas.
On a side note, Diane Severance, Ph.D, said that “Jesus was Asian” and that “Christianity began in Asia.” So HA! Take that you “White is Right!” fools. Your lord and savior was a math tutoring, kung-fu chopping son of a gun/God. The real reason why we Asians squint is so that we can see Him better through the light . . . Just kidding, but it is quite amusing to picture Jesus protecting himself from blasphemous naysayers and the devil with one karate chop at a time.
According to my understanding, the Philippines were some of the first Asians to enjoy eggnog and Lifetime replays of It’s a Wonderful Life and National Lampoon. Their privilege to enjoy this holiday early was due to “Spanish influences.” Or maybe because the Philippines were conquered early on by the Spaniard who were extremely Catholic. The power of Christ compelled them early!
Then there are Western influenced Asian countries, like Japan, who celebrate Christmas for the commercial purposes (and love I guess, pff), like gift giving and yellow snowball fights. I also know this is true because I’ve seen it in Japanese animes . . . and anime would never lie to a fellow Asian boy.
But some Asian countries, like China, do not recognize Christmas as a holiday. Whether you’re observing Dec. 25th for a commercial or religious holiday in those countries on the naughty list (looking at chu North Korea), then you’re still going to have to go to school as you watch other Asians frolic around in their Santa hats as they attempt with desperation and hope to get a kiss underneath the mistletoe.
You can read more about Christmas traditions in Asia at this Wikipedia page.
However don’t lose hope for little Lao Annie at her orphanage, Christmas is here . . . or I mean there! Why do Western countries and other mainstream Asians get to have all the fun?! It may have taken awhile but a blizzard of candy cane joy has reached the dry villages of Laos and exotic cities of Thailand. Whether this is a result of America’s commercial colonization or a Christmas miracle, it doesn’t matter because now everyone gets a Christmas.
James Zwier, Program Adviser at World Renew Laos, states that despite less than 2% of the population in Laos are Christians, “Christmas is the biggest celebration of the year.” Villagers uses this time to be with family and celebrate the farming year. It maybe a small victory, but it’s still a step forward into a global Christmas utopia!
Umm . . . so thank you European colonization and American media/commercial influences for bringing my fellow brothers and sisters overseas Christmas?
However, my parents were not lucky enough while they were in Asia to stuff stockings as they waited for jolly ole Saint Nick on December 24th; the only thing they stuffed back then were egg-rolls as they waited to go to their itty-bitty child jobs.
But after their migration to America and the start of our gigantic family, my parents got to try out their very own version of Christmas on me, which was interesting since they were (1) foreign to this concept of freedom to express love for another family member and (2) they weren’t Christians.
I am glad that I was my parents guinea pig in their Christmas experiment. When I looked around that night and saw all the things my little siblings now have, I can see how my envious tears, that I shed in grade school when I heard other kids tell their tales of Xmas victory in a form of toys, bikes and sneaky mistletoe kisses, watered the Christmas tree of joy that my siblings now have standing over them today. Compared to my first Christmas, which was with a small poorly decorated tree with some sticky rice and pork and no presents, this was a huge victory for my younger brother and sister.
Although I still feel like my Christmas interactions with my parents are more of “Why don’t you get a job” and “When are you going to get married” instead of hugs and presents . . . I guess somethings never change.
Stanley, 25, San Fran., a Chinese American, also has a similar experience with Christmas. He believes that Christmas means family traditions and whether to continue with the traditions or transition into something completely culturally new with your own family as the time goes on.
“It’s this kind of freedom that is what makes me proud to be an Asian American,” he said. “Like trying to find whatever makes you and your family happier.”
Now when people ask if I celebrate Christmas, I answer “Yes, an Asian Christmas.” Not to be a smart-ass, but it’s the honest answer since my family’s version of Christmas is different than the ones on Hallmark cards. Also, I tend to celebrate my X-Mas with lots of alcohol with my friends when I’m not strapped down with my family. But I think that’s more of a traditional alcoholics Christmas than an Asian one.
-I hope y’all had a very good Christmas and have a great New Year, Sype