Christmas is just one day a year, but for Assyrian American Civic Club President Raymond George, he wishes the festivities to be enjoyed for much longer.
“Most Assyrians are Christian, we take Christmas very seriously. It is really our first priority. Whether we are back home or here, we still treat Christmas as the most important day of our life,” George said.
Most people mistake Assyrian as a religion, rather it is an ethnicity. Within the Turlock region, and throughout most of Canada, Europe, and Iraq, Assyrians usually celebrate the Christmas season the same as other Christians.
A majority of Assyrians in Turlock attend Christmas Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. George has also known of people who have attended both. He explained that for Christmas, Assyrian Americans dress very nicely, and exchange gifts at a family member’s home.
“Family for us, for the Assyrians, is very important,” he said.
Most Assyrians also share traditional dishes associated with their culture, such as rice, curry, stew, and chicken. There is also an abundance of desserts that are specialties not cooked year round. These sweet dishes are roughly translated as Koleche and Kada.
Assyrian Americans enjoy meeting with their families, and always look forward to any holiday. But there is a special fondness for Christmas. Assyrians in Iraq take a full month to prepare their tree, and refuse to throw it out until the first week of January.
George is a first-generation American and was originally born out of the States, but he encourages his children to celebrate Christmas with a blend of old and new traditions.
“We are an indigenous people of Iraq. Our past goes back 6,000 years. But we are here and are influenced by the new environment and new society of the United States. The new generation is bringing to the house the new tradition that they are familiar with. My kids like to practice the American way because they are born in this country as second generation Americans,” George said.
The Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock has been participating in helping others achieve their holiday dreams throughout the year, and is open for many charitable functions and activities, including working with Hospice of Emanuel for its annual Festival of Trees fundraiser and with the Turlock Salvation Army.
The club will host its annual Christmas celebration for all Assyrians as well, with drinks, dancing, live music, and exchanging gifts on Christmas Day.
For more information about the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock, call 667-8444.
— BROOKE BORBA