“A Global Feast,” with SPU’s Multiethnic Community

Amanda Stubbert: Welcome to the SPU Voices Podcast, where we tell personal stories with universal impact. I’m your host, Amanda Stubbert. And we have a special Christmas episode for you today. Our international faculty share their favorite foods and traditions from their native countries. The holiday season ushers in many time-honored traditions: wrapping gifts, sending out greeting cards with latest family photos, unpacking beloved tree ornaments, but for most, gathering around the table with that special dish is what truly marks the arrival of the season.

Celebrations might include turkey and stuffing, but our multiethnic Seattle Pacific University family has many culinary traditions to include. We’re delighted to feature recipes from our international faculty, along with holiday memories that accompany these wonderful dishes. In addition to these memories, you can find more, and the recipes, at spu.edu/globalfeast. Today, we’ll visit China, Poland, Trinidad, and Northern Ireland.

Raedene Copeland: My name is Raedene Copeland. I am the assistant provost for inclusive faculty excellence and an associate professor of apparel design and merchandising. I am originally from the beautiful islands of Trinidad and Tobago, but I grew up specifically on the island of Trinidad.

Let’s talk a little bit about what we did for Christmas. We always opened our gifts at midnight on Christmas Eve. This was really important to my mom and my household. And Christmas morning we’d go to church early, eat breakfast, and start cooking an extensive Christmas lunch.

“At every house, we’ll eat the traditional rum cake.”

There’s a lot of visiting during the holidays, going back and forth between houses to drop off presents. We call it liming, which is basically hanging out. At every house, we’ll eat the traditional rum cake. We call it black cake locally. And drink our local Punch de Creme, which is made with eggs and condensed milk, similar to what you may call eggnog, just with a Caribbean twist. Another feature of the holidays in Trinidad is renovation. Decorating and renovations are a really big deal. Because the island is small and properties are limited, people tend to live in the same houses for many years. So, Christmas is a time to upgrade. People change the paint color of their houses, add rooms, get new appliances, purchase new sheets and curtains. And we can always count on family and friends to make the rounds and see what’s new at our homes.

John Robertson: My name is John Robertson, and I’m the assistant dean for instructional design and emerging technologies. And I’m originally from Northern Ireland. I remember Christmas as a time of rest, when work and universities closed, and we returned to our parents’ homes. On Christmas, we had breakfast together and opened stockings and gifts. There was always a debate: Presents before church or after? My mother all always insisted upon gifts after church, but she often lost that battle and we’d opened our presents before going to church. It was a chaotic scene, nothing like the orderly present exchanges I’ve seen in the United States. Everyone grabbing presents, handing them around, and tearing them up. At church there’d be a light sermon and a brass band and we’d return home for a multi-course meal that could take hours to finish. I recall smoked salmon, seafood cocktails, vegetable soup, and turkey dinner with stuffing. The desserts were full of alcohol: trifle and Christmas pudding and Christmas cake. We’d eat big dinners all week long, visiting our friends and family.

“Everyone tries to go home to visit family, observe the full moon, hear elders that tell fairy tales about the holiday, and eat moon cakes.”

Xu Bian: My name is Xu Bian. I’m an assistant professor of Chinese, and I’m originally from China. There are many ethnic groups in China with their own traditions, but in the Hun culture, the Autumn Festival is one of the most important celebrations. Everyone tries to go home to visit family, observe the full moon, hear elders that tell fairy tales about the holiday, and eat moon cakes. Nowadays people often try moon cakes from the bakery, but in the past they were made at home. Where I grew up in northeastern China, the moon cakes were hard and tasteless, so I didn’t care for the Autumn Festival because I didn’t like the cakes! When I moved to southeastern China to attend college, I found a wild variety of delicious moon cakes. I began to like the holiday and even today, I send my parents a high-quality box of moon cakes to enjoy.

Joanna Poznanska: My name is Joanna Poznanska. I am a professor of international business, and I am originally from Poland. When I was a child, the Christmas season was absolutely magical. Winters in Poland are dark and severely cold, and I remember the warmth of carolers coming to our door to sing and receive small offerings of food from the family. So I may be biased, but Polish Christmas carols are some of the most beautiful and original in the world. When I close my eyes, I can recall the rich smell of vanilla all through the house as my mother and grandmother made compote from white cherries and peeled pears. The children made paper chains and ginger cookies to decorate the tree.

I remember how busy the women were preparing food for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which everyone looks forward to because the Advent fast, observed with no eating on Christmas Eve until sunset, is finally ended. And how the women didn’t like or didn’t want men in the kitchen, putting their fingers into the dishes. Christmas was a season for friends and family, and we would go from house to house, visiting and eating too much delicious food at every place.

Amanda Stubbert: Thanks again for traveling the world with us with our holiday memories. And again, you can find all the recipes and more memories at spu.edu/global feast. And now may you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the Magi, and the peace of the Christ child. Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless you now and forever. Merry Christmas!


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