I wonder how many Americans experience their ethnicity most clearly through food. Ok, I’m not sure what it means to say that one is experiencing ethnicity, or what it means for that experience to be clearer, but in a social world where most people’s daily rituals are quite similar to others’, food is one of the few major areas open for wide variation. Clothing is another, I suppose, but I tend to associate it more with religion than with ethnicity, at least within the United States (which is why I wrote “Americans” instead of “people” above.
My family celebrates Christmas in a mostly secular American fashion; for Christmas dinner we usually eat sukiyaki. I can’t remember how we started doing this. Sukiyaki has always been one of our traditional family meals, along with jiaozi and a chicken soup my Swiss grandmother made (I’d find a wikipedia entry for that one too, but I don’t know how to spell the German name my grandmother used; at least the recipe has been passed down) and some others, but I can’t remember what occasions went with it until it became a Christmas tradition. It may have been a day after Christmas thing first, and then we moved it up.
I do remember once, during Thanksgiving, we wondered why we were having turkey if we didn’t really want to have turkey, and after that sukiyaki became a Thanksgiving meal too. But that was only if it was just immediate family; when representatives of the rest of the world are around, we still eat turkey.