Creating Traditions The Way Only Mothers Can

creating tradition

A New Life In America…

When my mother first came to this country from Africa in 1972 and saw her first snowfall, she cried.

She came from a place where she could pick starfruit and mango from trees within walking distance of her home. From that, she went to cold weather, no fruit trees, and this white stuff that she had never seen before falling on the ground to only make it colder. However, within a short time, she shook it all off and did the best she could for her family. While instilling traditional South Asian values in us, she began the process of creating traditions the way only mothers can so that her children could live and be happy in a new country. Of course, this involved food, and she learned how to cook American dishes.

She would find recipes in newspapers and magazines and try them out. She would incorporate Indian flavors into her sauces for pasta dishes. That didn’t always work out because sometimes she would put too much cayenne pepper into the sauce, which would elicit collective groans from me and my siblings.

New Tradition

However, a meal she rocked as far as I can remember was the Thanksgiving meal. She never made a turkey before she came to this country, but I think she just applied principles of roasting a chicken to turkey. She never learned how to make stuffing from scratch, so Stove Top is a staple in our Thanksgiving meal. One year, my sister-in-law tried a new recipe and brought it for our meal. It was good, but it still didn’t go over well. One of my other brothers was grumbling because he didn’t have his Stove Top.

The other staple of our meal was jellied cranberry sauce, my food nemesis alongside applesauce. To this day, it is the oddest food I’ve ever seen in my life. When you take it out of the can, the cranberry sauce is shaped like the can and has its grooves molded onto it. My oldest brother loved it. I would never touch it and didn’t know until I was an adult that you could actually make it with fresh cranberries. My mother also learned various desserts like pumpkin pie and apple pie. Over the years, my sisters and I started making the sides and desserts. But for years, she cooked by herself or split responsibilities with my aunt.

Really my mother and aunt created our Thanksgiving tradition together. For years, we would alternate which house would host the Thanksgiving meal. We loved just being together to eat, watch football and have loud conversations.

Our tradition may have changed over the years, but the memories we created will always remain. The admiration I have for my mother only grows. No matter what, she found her strength and learned a new culture and tradition for her children.

For more, check out Also, check out Shaherazade;s Daughters and The Siddiqui Brothers in Cairo, both available on'

Sameena Mughal

Sameena K. Mughal is an author, blogger, and educator living in West Chester, Pennsylvania, who is passionate about literature. Her debut novel, Shaherazade's Daughters was a feminist homage to the classic 10001 Arabian Nights. Her second book, The Siddiqui Brothers in Cairo follows the adventures of eccentric scientists who, ironically, are too forward- thinking for a time that is known for its forward- thinking, the Golden Age of Islam. She also writes sociopolitical commentary on her Behind and Beyond the Veil at