Young Californians Share Their Favorite Holiday Traditions

December 20, 2017 /

Editor’s Note: The holidays are here and young people across the state are celebrating with their families, friends and communities. From making tamales and buñuelos, to ringing in the Hmong New Year, youth reporters from the Youthwire network share their favorite holiday traditions. Read their responses below:


Members of the Lee family prepare street food and traditional dishes for the three-day New Year’s event. Hmong sausage, purple sticky rice and papaya salad are among the most popular New Year’s dishes, but street fare like boba drinks, egg rolls and fried vegetables are also commonly enjoyed. (Image: Hannah Esqueda/We’Ced)

The New Year Festival dates back thousands of years to when the Hmong population was concentrated in Laos and Southeast Asia. As Hmong families began immigrating to the Merced area, the tradition remained and the event is now one of the largest cultural festivals in the county.

The three-day event typically draws thousands of attendees from across the state and is hosted by local nonprofit Lao Family Community.

Festival features include traditional food, dancing, Hmong dress and sports. Pov Pob is among the most popular games and pairs off young men and women to toss a water ball back and forth. The game is usually seen as a matchmaking and courtship tool for young people.

Merced residents Adam, 24, and Song, 22, stand in front of the New Year’s sign at the Merced event. The gateway is covered in vines which have been used historically to symbolize leaving behind the evils of the past and welcoming all that is good in the new year. (Image: Hannah Esqueda/We’Ced)

The Miss Hmong Central Valley competition is also hosted at this time and provides scholarship opportunities for young women in the community. The winner is selected based off knowledge and skills of traditional Hmong activities.

Over the last few decades, elements of the festival have changed with the times but the main focus of celebrating friends and family remains the same

— Hannah Esqueda

“My Christmas tradition for the holidays starts in December. I live in apartments and most of us there are Hispanic. We all socialize and find our ways together. So starting in the month of December, we pray for La Rosa Guadalupe and we go to different peoples’ apartments and pray there about three days a week. It’s very calm in there because we have to be respectful. We read pages of the Bible because we are all Catholic. After an hour of praying, we finish and there’s food like bread, drinks, and other sorts of snacks to eat. We have traditional Mexican food and drinks while we socialize with each other.”

— Breanna Flores


“Christmas for me has always meant one thing: biscuits and gravy at my Grandma’s house. Since I can remember, my family and I would wake up before the sun was even out and head to my grandparents house to open stockings and eat an impressive amount of breakfast food. Even after all of us had grown up (and gotten past the pre-dawn wakeup stage) this tradition remained and I honestly can’t imagine Christmas without it.”

— Kody Stoebig

“The Holidays have always meant one thing for me: spending time with family. Ever since I was young I’ve had memories of aunts, uncles, cousins, padrinos and madrinas. We ate large meals with my large family as we got the chance to catch up with those who lived in different cities all culminating in gift opening at midnight and not a minute before.”

— Miguel Bibanco

Eastern Coachella Valley

Alondra and her family gather around for a family posada. (Image Courtesy of Alondra Jimenez/Coachella Unincorporated)

“My holiday tradition is having a posada at my grandma’s house. All my family goes over to her house and my grandma makes champurrado. We all go Christmas caroling and we all hang out together. We used to only do this every other year but after my grandpa passed away recently, our family now gets together every year. It’s really cool. My mom and I bring sodas, cookies and desserts.”

— Alondra Jimenez

Image: Courtesy of Olivia Rodriguez/Coachella Unincorporated)

“Every year during the holidays our home always gets filled with tamales and buñuelos. There’s always family that comes in and out of our home. There’s just a lot of delicious food throughout Christmas and New Years. My favorite part of the holidays is seeing my parents get some well-deserved time off from work and seeing them enjoy their time with our family.”

— Olivia Rodriguez

Long Beach

(Image: Courtesy of Veronica Caro)

“Every Christmas morning, my parents wake my family and me up to the sounds of both holiday and Mexican music. My siblings and I know that means breakfast is ready. We all rush to

the table to find vegan menudo, homemade tamales, pan dulce and cinnamon hot chocolate. The food is always so good, but the anticipation of opening gifts usually has us eating around our Christmas tree.

We take turns giving each other gifts, recording each other and taking pictures. At the end, my siblings and I try to pull off the best prank gift for one another, but my dad always gets us good. After the wrapping paper has been picked up and our gifts left in our rooms, my sisters and I enjoy some girl time, playing board games and devouring more tamales.

In the evening, we all reconvene to stuff our faces one last time before the night ends. After dinner, my dad puts on It’s A Wonderful Life, a Christmas classic and part of our family tradition.

Every year, I anticipate spending Christmas with my family. It is one of the few holidays when we are all together and only holiday we overload our stomachs with tamales.”

— Veronica Caro

It’s no surprise that Christmas is one of the most famous holidays. From the food, the family, the snow and finally the presents, Christmas is a joyous time for everyone and it just so happens that Long Beach is always eager to spread some holiday cheer!

The age old song “Santa Claus is coming town,” is brought to life every year at the Lakewood Center mall. At this location children are given the chance to take a small walk into the “North Pole” and to sit on Santa’s lap. The “North Pole” is a wooden dome in the center of the mall. It is created to look like a technological wonderland with massive touch screen that the children can play with and even measure whether they are “naughty” or “nice.” After they are past the wonderland they enter a small gated area in which they can meet Santa Claus and reveal all that their heart desires.

If you want to be apart of this event, you can check the Lakewood mall website to see what days Santa is working and even to reserve a spot for the family! This tradition in the Lakewood mall has been going strong for as long as I can remember and every year it brings joy to people all over again!

— Jannai Simmons

This story was originally posted by Coachella Unincorporated:

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