by Akina Nishi
When I was younger, I looked forward to Christmas Day because of how excited the other kids at school would be.
I learned about a man in a red cap and his reindeer from coloring books and went along with it. Early in the morning, I would make hot chocolate and watch the Christmas parade. I would wait hopefully for my parents to wake up, too, to watch the parade with me or maybe even surprise me with a gift, but they would be asleep. Alone and frustrated, my naive mind could not have imagined how exhausted my parents must have felt on their sole day off from work.
My father was always busy as a head chef, where the relentless work demands day and night dedication. My mother supported in any way she could: cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping. The holidays are supposed to be a time for celebration, but with our unpredictable, busy schedules, it was turned into a day for my family members to rest and regain energy.
I remember in elementary school when this all boiled over one Christmas Eve. I felt jealous that other families would go to Big Bear and experience snow with their families or brag about opening presents from relatives. I threw a full-scale tantrum that night, screaming and crying. My father, as a last resort, sighed and reminded me that Santa Claus would not come to give presents to such a troublesome little girl.
I shut up immediately.
When Christmas came the next year, I wrote a letter to Santa Claus asking for a bicycle, certain that I had changed my behavior. I hinted that he could come in over the balcony because of our lack of a chimney.
I did not receive a bicycle, to my initial disappointment, but from this point forward, my ignorant and superficial way of looking at family and holidays began to change. Two years after making a wish to Santa, my father came home with a bicycle for me.
Even though it was a hand-me-down from one of his coworkers, I felt appreciative of this miracle, and realized that Christmas has significance.
While other families may have a grand turkey for dinner, along with a gift of a flat-screen television, our yearly Christmas shopping includes a twelve-pack box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates at CVS Pharmacy and sparkling cider from Trader Joe’s.
We improvise, and do what we can with what we have in a time when the heart supercedes reasoning. Just spending the little time I have with my family makes me happy.
One Christmas, my mother made a “Christmas tree” with silver and gold origami papers. She folded several silver cranes with her delicate fingers, and decorated them around a paper cone. When I woke up and saw the paper tree gracing the center of our dining table, I noticed the crane at the top was silver.
I thought what a wasted opportunity that was; if a golden crane was placed at the top instead, it would resemble the classic glittering star on a normal Christmas tree. I proudly suggested this ingenious idea of mine, but she told me that they have to be the same color.
She explained that the cranes must be equal so that they can all live peacefully. I realized our way of celebration reflects the humanity and unity we strive for, and we spread goodness to those who may be deprived of some.
It is as if, during this time, we cherish more the overwhelming love we receive and reciprocate.
My parents still work extremely hard, and we have continued spending the holidays at home, simply enjoying each others’ company. I have become busier as well, as a student preparing to attend college, and I try my best to make as much time for my family as I can, and not just one day a year.
This is a season when we take a rest from the fast-paced race of life. We stop to embrace who we are, our traditions and identity, and that is what we cherish.