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Celebrating Festive Mayhem 2 with Guest Rhoda Berlin

debbiejpruss is the winner of Rhoda’s book. Please watch for an email from her!

I’m so happy to welcome Rhoda Berlin to the blog today. We’ve had some delightful email exchanges about Festive Mayhem 2. Amazingly in her blog post below she mentions Buffalo, Iowa which is a small town near my hometown. I had to find out how someone from Los Angeles had heard of Buffalo. (It was through a friend.)

Rhoda: Many thanks to the Wickeds for the warm welcome!

I’m delighted to be here with some thoughts on holidays and culture. “Culture” means different things to different people. For our purposes, let’s define it as what goes into living our everyday lives. This includes how we speak, dress, celebrate, and – of course – what we eat. With this in mind, holidays and culture are tightly entwined.

During a recent wait at the post office, I overheard a woman and her young son discussing Thanksgiving. He asked, “Where are we eating?” (A boy after my own heart.)

His mom said, “Aunt Marisol and Uncle Derrick’s.”*

I could practically see the boy drooling as he said, “Oh, good! Yummy turkey, and I love lumpia!”

His joyful anticipation of both American and Filipino dishes whisked me back to the epicurean acculturation that I grew up with. In my Korean immigrant family, holidays initially meant kalbi, fresh off our little charcoal grill, rice, kimchi and lots of other side dishes. As my parents’ knowledge of both English and local traditions increased, American fare was added, making our table a bicultural smorgasbord. That’s how I learned the vital roles language and food play as you settle into a new community, whether you move from Russia to the US or from Buffalo, New York to Buffalo, Iowa.

Over time, I learned that fitting in goes deeper than vocabulary and diet. No matter how many generations ago they’d arrived, my friends’ families also struggled with culture clash. Blue collar and white. Baptist and Jewish. Urban and rural. Sixth generation Californian and Italian immigrant. We were all multicultural in some way, and dealing with the differences wasn’t easy, especially during the holidays. We relished comparing notes on how our families dealt with the conflicts and how we, heirs to the confusion, made sense of it all.

It was comforting to say, “You, too?”

I was jerked back into the present when the boy stopped naming Thanksgiving dishes. He got a frozen look on his face and said, “But what about –”

Before he could finish, his mother said, “Don’t worry. Uncle Todd’s not invited, not after last time.”

The boy smiled, and cheerfully planned his dessert.

Notorious Uncle Todd reminded me that whenever people gather, emotions can get whipped up, and events meant for pure fun and feasting can get downright explosive. In other words, celebrations – family or otherwise – provide the perfect opportunities for searing suspense!

That’s why, when an invitation went out for cozy holiday tales with a culinary bent, I couldn’t resist. Cross-cultural ideas blend in “Last Bite,” a story in which a young woman introduces her fiancé to her family, differences meet head-on, history plays a roll, and things happen.

*All names have been changed.

Readers, what holiday foods and traditions were passed down to you? And what cultural bridges have you learned to build?

In celebration of the multicultural experience, I’m giving away a hard copy of my non-fiction book Mixed Blessings: A Guide to Multicultural and Multiethnic Relationships. For a chance to receive it, please leave a comment below. (The giveaway closes at noon EDT, October 14, and is open to U.S. residents only.)

In addition, the Festive Mayhem 2 team is offering a multiple-item giveaway, one winner per item. To join the fun, go to our Rafflecopter page:

Festive Mayhem 2 blurb

“Last Bite” is in Festive Mayhem 2, a collection of seven cozy holiday mystery shorts by writers of color. The zesty tales stretch from 1921 to 2021, Halloween to New Year’s Eve, the US to the UK. Recipes are included!


Rhoda Berlin is a second-generation Korean American who enjoyed a thirty-year career as a marriage and family therapist. She co-authored the non-fiction book Mixed Blessings: A Guide to Multicultural and Multiethnic Relationships with Harriet Cannon. Now folding her knowledge of human nature into her writing, Rhoda recently completed her first novel,a multicultural mystery.

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