A Christmas not home alone


Image courtesy of Huy Huynh.

Huy Huynh, Multimedia Editor

This previously ran in our December 2022 print issue.

It’s the holiday season, and the house is filled with chaotic laughter and cheer. There are 20 kids from eight different families all in one house, running around and shooting each other with Nerf guns. Young cousins, siblings, and family friends, all together in one place. The fathers, grandfathers, and bachelor uncles are sipping on beers and talking about football, cars, and inflation. The mothers, grandmothers, and single aunts are enveloped in a conversation about fashion, family dramas, and recipes.         

There are newborns crying, dogs barking, cats hissing, and pots and pans clanging. It’s the most beautiful and festive time of the year and spending time with family is what it’s all about.

For the entirety of my existence, I’ve never had the opportunity to experience something as exciting as that. I’ve never been able to complain about how wild and chaotic my family gatherings were. It’s always been just my family spending the holidays together and that was it. Eight people sitting around a dining room table eating food and watching a movie. No giant Nerf gun fights with 20 kids or competitions between a dozen families. The closest I ever got to something resembling a large family gathering was through my friends’ stories. 

Year after year, I would always ask my friends how the holidays were. I sat, listened, and painted images in my mind as they ranted about how exhausting it was for them to travel out to another state, put up with their annoying relatives, and eat terrible food surrounded by little, bratty children. A warm fuzzy feeling that always made me want to smile and laugh would take hold: the same feeling you get entering your house for the first time after being away for so long. For a brief second, it made my dreams of having a chaotic family gathering of my own seem within reach. 

My imagination would go wild as I dreamt up a world where anything was possible and my whole family was all together in one room, eating, laughing, teasing, and bickering. Just as quickly as the warm fuzzy feelings rushing in was the sad realization that such a world could never exist. The hard truth I’ve had to swallow for my entire life was that the majority of my family was on the other side of the world and life would continue on that way forever… or so I thought.

Three years ago, my first pair of extended family from Vietnam was able to immigrate to the States. It was exciting because we had filed for their immigration over a decade ago and never got a fully explicit response from either of the two governments.     

We didn’t know if they were eligible to immigrate to begin with and were told to wait patiently as the governments worked through the countless other applicants. To our surprise, everything worked out and that year’s Christmas holiday was one of the most interesting I’ve ever had.

   My cousin had never been to America before, and she was experiencing American culture all at once. Ham, mashed potatoes, prime rib, stuffing, gingerbread, and all the other traditional holiday foods were introduced to my aunt, uncle, and cousin. Some dishes were hits while some weren’t, but it didn’t matter because this was the first time there were more than just eight of us all enjoying each other’s company.      

This year, on Nov. 20, more extended family just immigrated over. For the first time in our family’s history, the majority of my family members will be spending the holiday season in the United States. As an older kid with the ability to drive now, I’ve been able to fully introduce my newly immigrated aunt, uncle, and cousin to what America has to offer.