Back of woman sitting, grass and white fence in the background.

Memory of an Immigrant Past

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By Nicole Morsfield

I’ve lived in the U.S. my whole life, and the only family members of mine who immigrated I never met.

My mom’s side of the family moved to America from Hungary several generations ago. Today, we still eat a few traditional Hungarian holiday foods. The most notable is our Christmas tradition, where we each get a cup containing honey, an apple slice, a walnut, and a little bit of garlic. We eat each item in a specific order, and each symbolizes something different. I always refused to participate as a child, disgusted by the aftertaste of the garlic. As kids, we sometimes mixed up the order to eat the better tasting foods last.

Closeu-up of glass bottle with golden top, red flowers in the foreground, black-and-white photo of woman seen in the background
An old perfume bottle sits in front of a photo of my grandmother. In Hungarian culture, women are sprinkled with water or perfume on Easter for fertility. Photo by Nicole Morsfield

My dad’s side of the family is a little harder to trace. All my immediate family knows is that they came to America from Germany and Czechoslovakia a couple generations before my dad was born. Today, my father’s family doesn’t follow any specific German or Czech customs, nor does my father remember any German culture from his childhood. Funnily enough, he does recall his grandma and his mother making nut rolls called “kolaches,” which is a traditional Hungarian food that my mom’s family also makes.

Close-up of pickle between tree branches, with red hat
A pickle ornament hangs from a Christmas tree. It’s German custom to hide a pickle ornament in the tree and to award an extra gift to the first child to find it on Christmas morning. Photo by Nicole Morsfield.

Though I don’t know much about my family’s history, I at least know my mom’s side of the family is more in tune with their cultural heritage, and I’m interested in researching more.

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