The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 16, 2005


Special holiday traditions for Carlisle families
Tanya and Greg White honor both Christmas and Hanukkah

Four-year-old twins David and Ella White practice lighting their menorah in preparation for Hanukkah. (Photo by Midge Eliassen)

Like many Carlisle families, Tanya and Greg White of Aberdeen Drive celebrate two December holidays — Christmas and Hanukkah. Tanya explains, "I grew up in the Ukraine and moved to the U.S. in 1978, when I was 14. My family's Hanukkah celebrations were low-key, but I always received gelt, which is gift money." Tanya and Greg strive to maintain Jewish traditions along with the Christian holidays of Greg's family for their four-year-old twins, Ella and David. "I read the kids books about all the different Jewish holidays," Tanya says. "For Hanukkah, we'll make latkes and light the menorah. We'll also celebrate a traditional Christmas with Greg's family."

Buddhism with a dash of Christmas at the Changs' house

Yih Ping and Chiao Bin Huang Chang and their children, May, Deedy and Princeton, always place a Buddhist goddess statue next to their Christmas tree. (Photo by Midge Eliassen)

Chiao Bin Huang Chang and her husband, Yih Ping, were both raised in Taiwan as Buddhists. "Even in Taiwan, Christmas is a big holiday," Chiao Bin says. "Here, I view it as a day that everyone celebrates and gets excited about, and I can accept that aspect of it even without being Christian. I want my children (May, 15; Deedy, 7; and Princeton, 5) to feel like they are part of American culture and not see themselves as too different, so we get a Christmas tree and they have a lot of fun decorating it. Our tree stands next to a statue of the Buddhist goddess of love and compassion."

In recent years, Santa Claus has visited the Chang household on River Road as well. "When I was in graduate school in Cambridge, I had an older friend here who was afraid I wouldn't know how to celebrate American holidays with my children, so she gave each of them a Christmas stocking. Now they hang up their stockings and put out milk and cookies for Santa," Chiao Bin says. "I tell my children that we exchange gifts with other people at Christmas as a sign of our love and appreciation for each other." Yih Ping adds that although they do not teach their children about Jesus as part of their Christmas tradition, Chinese Buddhists consider Jesus a saint along with Buddha and Confucius.

Christmas bustle and cheer with the Koskis

Left to right, Jonathan, Molly, Chad, Matthew, Adam and Lisa Koski put the finishing touches on their gingerbread house. (Photo by Midge Eliassen)

On Nathan Lane, the Koski household overflows with holiday cheer and excitement. Christmas traditions abound for Chad and Lisa and their four children: Matthew, 14; Adam, 13; Molly, 10; and Jonathan, 6. Busy as they are with the varied activities of six people, the Koskis still fit in plenty of time to do things together over the holidays. "We all decorate a gingerbread house together every year, and we bake cookies," Lisa says. "We put on holiday music while we decorate our tree." The family also assembles a miniature Christmas village, adding new pieces almost every year. "Another thing we always do is go to the Red Balloon tree lighting," Lisa recounts. "This year our seventh grader wasn't so sure it was a cool enough thing to do, but I told him we're going to do it because it's a family tradition! He went, had a great time, and saw that there were kids even older than him in attendance."

On Christmas Day, the Koskis gather with Lisa's family for a feast dominated by the English culinary traditions of her ancestry. "We eat turkey with bread sauce, which is made with bread crumbs, milk, onions and cloves. We also bake a ham, because that's what Chad, whose family is Finnish, always ate on Christmas when he was growing up. And then we have Christmas pudding, which for years was made by my grandmother in England. Now we purchase it instead. The other dessert we always have on Christmas day is English Trifle."

Perhaps because of all the food, decorating, and family fellowship, even the youngest Koskis do not seem overly preoccupied with presents. Jonathan, a first grader, states that his favorite aspects of Christmas are decorating the tree and playing with the family's nutcracker collection. "And I want to go outside and make igloos," he states. Molly, who is ten, says that she likes the yearly ritual of putting together the Christmas village, with its Dickensian scenery. "I love putting up the Scrooge house, with the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come," she says. Molly also looks forward to seeing her extended family on Christmas, especially her newborn cousin Ryan.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito