Fall is a time when many cultures celebrate their heritage. To join in, we asked our staff to share about their heritage and how they celebrate at home.
Rosy, Multicultural Family Engagement Specialist
We would go to Chicago to see the Mexican Independence Day Parade or we would go to Garfield Park in Indy to celebrate Mexican Independence Day (September 16). We would eat the most amazing, freshly made gorditas and drink agua de jamaica. Though I wasn’t born and raised in Mexico, the ties to my heritage are still strong. I still get chills when I hear “compatriots” playing mariachi songs loudly in their homes and cars, and I love sharing that excitement with my own children by having them listen to the same songs. I hope one day they’re able to appreciate this half of their heritage and love it just as much if not more than me.
Grace, Child Care Resource and Referral Specialist
Every few months, my family and I get together to cook and eat all our favorite African food and just share the day together. My mom loves to cook, so she always makes an effort to make one Liberian dish (where my husband is from) and one Ghanaian dish (where my brother-in-law is from). It is always fun watching them eat food from their home country and give their feedback on how well (or not well) my mom did on preparing the dish!
Sylvia, Program Resource Navigator
Traditionally, growing up, we celebrated most American holidays. On New Year’s Day we celebrated with dishes such as black-eyed-peas to chicken and chitlings (something I never ate). On Christmas, we opened presents and had family breakfast together after exploring gifts. I fondly remember the excitement of the Fourth of July, when we would get to stay up late. We were able to participate with holding sparklers and throwing poppers -when we threw them on the ground they would make a loud popping noise. Today, my family and I have started to learn more about our history and culture and have began to celebrate and take part in holidays such as Juneteenth and Black History 360. As a family, we also really love to learn and embrace all the many cultures of the world!
Mollie, Executive Director
As a child, my dad’s family and extended family would go to my grandma’s house after church every Sunday. My grandma would always spend hours cooking all kinds of breakfast foods, and anyone (and everyone) would stop by. This would be for 10 minutes on our way to do something else, but we also would spend hours playing with cousins. Living in a small town and going to Grandma’s every Sunday made cousins feel like siblings. As my grandma would say, “It’s the best day of the week!”
Lucy, Multicultural Program Resource Navigator
Our way of celebrating was to get together on Sundays and cook topical dishes or desserts from my country Ecuador, such as ceviche, patacones, tostado, and make pristinos. For us, it was celebrating and savoring our roots so as not to forget them.
Tom, Family and Program Manager
Growing up, we always celebrated Veterans Day and Memorial Day pretty extensively because of my grandpa’s career as a fighter pilot. My parents were also very consistent in celebrating all the holidays, from our Thanksgiving meal with my paternal grandmother to treat baskets and egg coloring on Easter.
Michelle, Community Engagement Specialist
Every summer, my mom would take us to the African Arts Fair at the DuSable Black History Museum in Chicago. I would love walking around listening to the music, visiting the various vendors, and eating some of the most delicious food! It was an awesome opportunity to learn about our history and connect to our roots.
Lane, Human Resources Manager
We just love getting together as a family. The action always seems to take place at my parents’ house on their back deck. Mom and Dad provide the space and drinks, and the rest of us coordinate to bring the rest. My mom loves to man the grill while everyone is outside chatting and snacking around the patio table.
Jamie, Family Engagement Specialist
Growing up, we would have Puerto Rican nights where my mom would cook tostones, arroz y habichuelas (rice and beans), y bistec (steak). On these nights, my sisters and I would always ask my dad questions about growing up in the Caribbean. He would tell us all about the coquí (a type of frog) and their sounds that would orchestrate the night. I remember being so excited to hear the coquí when I visited Puerto Rico for the first time! As an adult, I connect to my heritage by learning how to cook some of our family favorites, like flan, empanadas, and mofongo!
Lauren George, Family Engagement Specialist
Growing up, my family prioritized family meals together. Now, my family gets together every Sunday for family dinner at my parents’ house. My mom cooks or my dad smokes meat and we all bring a side dish. My favorite meal is Skyline Chili, which is something my dad introduced us to as children and continues to be a comfort food for me. As a kid, every year for my birthday I would choose Skyline and homemade pumpkin pie as my special meal!
Kristin, Communications and Community Manager
As a kid, I always wanted to have an exciting way to celebrate my family’s culture… but I had to settle for the lone tradition of eating kielbasa alongside our Thanksgiving turkey (thanks to my Polish ancestors). As I explored my ancestry, I discovered that we have deep American roots and learned to appreciate that more. Whether it’s attending a Memorial Day parade with my family, catching a baseball game together, or watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July, the traditions I treasure most are when I get to spend time with those I love.
Patti, Data/Assessment Specialist
My paternal grandparents were German and Polish. Several times we went with them along with my aunts, uncles, and cousins to a restaurant called Little Bohemia, which served European food. I don’t recall what dishes we ate, but I do remember enjoying time together with our big extended family. I had another uncle of Italian descent. He would cook delicious Italian food for us when they hosted family events. At our home celebrations, we usually enjoyed traditional American dishes. Growing up, it was great to experience a wide variety of culinary dishes.
Janaya, Administrative Assistant
My mom was always big on holidays. She would always decorate for Christmas. She was an artist and would make cards for us with cartoon characters. We also had huge family dinners where she would prepare an enormous meal while sending my dad back and forth to the grocery store! We always celebrated birthdays in our home along with volunteering on certain holidays at the homeless shelter for men in my hometown