Making My Own Holiday Traditions

Alexandra Molotkow is an editor at Real Life magazine. She was a founding editor of Hazlitt, an associate editor of the Hairpin and arts columnist for...

Like Nick Hune-Brown, who writes about kids of mixed-race heritage in the latest issue of Toronto Life, I am a “mixie.”But unlike Nick, I was not raised in a multicultural household. Our household was closer to acultural. Sometimes my babushka sings warbly Belorussian folk songs during our sporadic visits to the old folks’ home, and I’ve inherited a few salty proverbs that lead me to believe the Russians have as many words for “shit” as the Inuit purportedly do “snow.” My mom gives out lucky money each Chinese New Year and has an excellent eye for Asian décor—but mostly Japanese décor, and she is not Japanese. Other than that, we observe few traditions other than the ritual consumption of frozen pizza. We are more like a culture of three.

My parents aren’t much for tradition, but we make a few efforts: every Christmas we exchange gifts and my mom makes me turkey stuffing wedged between two plain chunks of tofu, just the way I like it. And every other boxing day (or so), my Uncle Victor and Aunt Holly host a Molotkow Family Brunch. I love the Molotkow Family Brunch, but ragging on the idea of a Molotkow Family Brunch feels more characteristic of us than the brunch itself. And I love Vic and Holly, but I feel a little weird about that, as though fondness were an inappropriate feeling to have about a blood relative. My parents’ friends have always been like extended family, but the only tradition we uphold is sushi.

It’s both liberating and lonely not to come from any real tradition. On one hand, I don’t feel pressure to observe principles I didn’t come to myself; on the other, it would be nice to feel connected to something bigger than my little family unit. My friends are a sort-of family, but we can barely organize a disco bowling night, much less a ritual. That’s why I’m going to start my own traditions. If I ever have kids, the little mixies will identify as Molotkow, and they’ll participate in a holiday regimen designed to strengthen the bonds of ancestry and facilitate maximum fun. For now, the following are for me and my friends, all Honourary Molotkows (HMs).

The Feast of Moba
The Feast of Moba is named after my bike, Moba. It’s the big one—our Christmas without a Christ—and it’s a celebration of all the things I love, because I invented it.

Guests arrive just before sundown wearing masks of their choosing (monster, opera, zentai), and then we all go out and just walk around in our masks, to show the world we’re a group. When we get back, we vote on whether to order pizza or Indian. After dinner we eat grocery store–bought vanilla cake, with blue icing spelling Let’s Belebrate, in honour of a typo on a cake my parents once bought me for a house party.

After the feast, we sing original songs about the Feast of Moba—each guest is expected to bring a new composition—followed by many hours of karaoke, hosted by a DJ who works in costume as Butterball from Hellraiser, and whose second job is to roust guests who fall asleep. Around 4am we all watch Kids in the Hall and talk about the meaning of love until a brunch restaurant opens. Then we all eat eggs benedict.

The Roast of Death
Is like any other roast: each year, a Molotkow or HM is honoured by other Molotkows and HMs through loving mockery. Instead of sitting in a chair, however, the roastee lies down in a coffin. This adds a delectable tang of pathos and reminds us how sad we’d be if they actually died.

Festival of the Ancestors
This tradition honours the Molotkow Ancestors: my parents, Wendy and Walter. On Ancestor’s Eve, Molotkows and HMs construct paper mache likenesses of my parents’ faces to be strung up above the ancestral homeland (their living room), as well as crude popsicle-stick masks drawn with scented marker.

The Festival of the Ancestors begins once my parents leave the house for work the next morning. It starts with The Ancestral Drama, in which pairs of Molotkows and HMs improvise movie scenes in character as my parents. Then we put on their clothes and perform rounds of duets. When my parents get home, we hover around them in their clothes and our masks, repeating everything they say in unison until they kick us out.

Solitude Day
Each Molotkow and HM spends this day alone, not talking to anyone. At 8:30pm we all order personal pizzas.

The Molotkow New Year
March 25th marks the beginning of the Molotkow lunar cycle because it’s Elton John’s birthday. Every New Year, a member of our clan is designated Elton for a Day based on their performance in last year’s Meme Pool, in which we all predict which memes will take off the following year. Elton for a Day sits behind a ceremonial divider and hears our worries and hopes for the new year, as well as our complaints about other Molotkows and HMs. After we’ve all had a go, we head to the fire pit, where we burn the names of our enemies. Then we go for massages. When we return, Elton for a Day sings an Elton John medley with altered lyrics inspired by the stuff we told him. A cathartic yelling match ensues, then we order pizza and listen to Elton John.

The Htabbas
A day where we all work together at a cafe.

Alexandra Molotkow is an editor at Real Life magazine. She was a founding editor of Hazlitt, an associate editor of the Hairpin and arts columnist for the Globe and Mail. Her writing has appeared in The Cut, The Believer, The New Republic, and The New York Times Magazine.