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A Spicy Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving in our household had its own spicy twist.

As Indians, who had emigrated to the United States, the whole concept of turkeys, pilgrims, football, apple pie, and Native Americans with feathers in their hair seemed quite foreign to my parents.

But over time, the day began to hold a lot of meaning and significance. It represented a time to recognize all that they could be grateful for - health, family, success, and happiness. My parents and many of our relatives welcomed family members who would come to Boston from around the country for the gathering. A huge feast was planned for the day, including masala turkey, spicy Indian vegetable filling, and traditional Indian potatoes on the side. Dessert was a combination of apple pies, brownies, and traditional Indian dessert. Bollywood music played in the background, while my brother and other cousins dragged our elders to the television and tried to explain the game of football to them. After genuinely trying to understand the game for a few minutes, the adults would quickly lose interest and drift outside to play cricket.

My memories of Thanksgiving mark in an important lesson in how I want to celebrate holidays with my children. We live in a multicultural society where we marry people of other cultures, from different backgrounds, with different ideologies and religious beliefs. Our holidays and customs build the foundation for how we identify ourselves and who we are connected. While Sumant (my husband) identifies himself as an Indian, I identify myself as Indian American. How will my children identify themselves? Is there a need for them to identify themselves in a mutlicultural society?

I have struggeld with whether or not to get a Christmas tree. We are not Christian, so why would we celebrate the holiday? (When we were young, my parents would buy us one gift each, and hang up a stocking by the fireplace. Christmas was not about gifts, but it became a day we learned about giving.) At the same time, I do not want my young children to feel excluded from the dominant society. I want them to know the Indian festivals like Diwali (the festival of light that marks the New Year) and Hole (the festival of color). But I also want them to understand the traditions and holidays of their friends - from Ramadan to Id to Hanukah and the Chinese Moon Festival.

In a world of so much color and flavor, perhaps the answer is to create a calendar of holidays that we celebrate throughout the year. This calendar is full of rich traditions, color, stories, and most of all connections - bonds with your heritage, world, self and the friends and families you love.

(This is an excerpt from my book, 100 Promises to My Baby.)

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