Christmas Chicken, Carols, and My Community: Creighton’s Multicultural Christmas Celebration

event pictureNPR’s food blog, The Salt, recently featured an article about a traditional Filipino Christmas dish as ubiquitous as your aunt’s fruitcake, rellenong manok. It is a deboned chicken that is filled with various ingredients such as ground pork, raisins, chorizo, boiled eggs, Edam cheese and even Spam.

This dish, with its hodge podge collection of ingredients, is representative of the various influences of Filipino culture: the Spanish pollo relleno, Dutch cheese, and American canned foods. The dish, although originating in Spain, is now considered Filipino by many.

The rellenong manok at La Cocina de Tita Moning, a restaurant in Manila. Chef Suzette Montinola uses a traditional recipe from the 1930s that belonged to her grandmother.

So what does a Filipino Christmas chicken version of the turducken have to do with the changing face of America in 2040?

Everything. The cultural history of the rellenong manok fits the mold of the American melting pot mythos: different ingredients sourced from different nations coming together to create a dish that has achieved a singular national identity.

As the America of 2040 will look different than the America of today, many various ethnic celebrations may become more mainstream as communities look to pass these traditions, like rellenong manok, onto future generations.

Previously, we featured two initiatives held by Nebraska groups on the importance of being able to grow as a community together. Last week, I was able to attend an event that provided an opportunity to be a part of such growth.

The Creighton Office of Multicultural Affairs collaborated with Campus Ministry, Creighton University Latino Students Association (CULSA), API Jays (Creighton’s Asian American and Pacific Islander club), the Catholic Student Organization, and the Cofradia del Santo Nino Omaha (a Filipino American Catholic organization) held a Posadas / Simbang Gabi – Misa De Gallo / Parranda event at St. Johns on Creighton’s campus.

Kyle Shinseki, S.J., one of the organizers of the event, explained, “[The inspiration for the event]… was to build bridges among diverse students on Creighton’s campus through a faith-filled and fun celebration.” For many of the students, many of their Christmas-time traditions form the basis of their cultural identities. “As a Jesuit, Catholic university,” says Kyle, “it is important for us to develop an appreciation not only for different faith traditions, but also for the diverse traditions that exist within the Catholic faith.”

Las posadas, for example, is a 9-day celebration celebrated in Mexico and the American Southwest. Serving as an reenactment of the Christmas story, two people dress up as Mary and Joseph, and are followed by a procession of people. Each night, the actors knock on a specially designated house, and the resident opens the door and sings a song before letting Mary and Joseph into their home. At the end of every night, there is a celebration involving the exchange of Christmas cards, caroling, and breaking open pinatas.

Simbang gabi, like las posadas, is a 9 day series of novenas responding to the needs of Filipino agricultural farmers and laborers, who worked before sunrise to avoid the temperatures of the afternoon. These novenas, while usually held in the evenings, were held in the mornings before the farmers and laborers went to the fields.

Parranda is Afro-Indigenous style of music played in various countries, which include Trinidad and Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, these musical events are similar to traditional Christmas caroling, and are carried out at night during the holidays.

The Creighton event held a las posadas procession prior to the mass, with students playing the roles of Mary and Joseph, and singing the traditional posada songs. The mass was celebrated in various languages: English, Spanish, and Tagalog (the main dialect spoken in the Philippines).

Afterwards, there was a reception which included food and decorations such as: Filipino párol lantern, Mexican papel picado hangings, and Puerto Rican tembleque pudding. “Students of Filipino, Latino, and Caucasian backgrounds actively participated in the event,” says Kyle, “and learned about each others’ traditions.”

Seeing students, a part of the 2040 generation, participate in the event demonstrates that these cultural traditions are alive and well within the Creighton community. And being able to share other cultures’ traditions emphasizes the idea of equitable and inclusive growth within a community. Allowing students an opportunity to have events such as these on campus affirms their cultural identity, and contributes to a greater sense of multiculturalism in the community.

Finally, like any good celebration, there was of course, a wonderful selection of traditional Filipino, Mexican, and Puerto Rican foods!

Bunuelos are a Mexican dough dessert covered with brown sugar, cinnamon and guava.

Tembleque is a coconut dessert pudding from Puerto Rico

Puto bumbong from the Philippines is made from a special kind of purple rice which is steamed and served with coconut.

Chino Betita, JD Class of 2015



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