Eat, Sing and Be Merry

Several Holiday Celebration performers share their favorite holiday customs and recipes.



Holiday specialties from different cultures abound. For Michael McCullough of the Palmdale High School Choral Union the great treat is “Hungarian horns – a pastry that my wife’s family introduced to me when I was courting their daughter. Unfortunately I only know how to eat them, and ‘gramma’ is very protective of this recipe.” Timothy Reilly of South Pasadena Children’s Orchestra enjoys “the homemade ravioli we make as a family every year, a tradition that has been started since great, great grandma.” Another orchestra member, Alex Fonseca likes “turron (Spanish candy dessert). On Christmas eve, we eat rice and black beans, and pork.”

Kim Eung Hwa of Kim Eung Hwa Korean Dance Company


1/2 cup ddeokguk ddeok (thin sliced rice cake)
1/4 cup myeolchi (dried anchovy)
6 cups water
2 green onions, chopped
4 oz beef, thin julienne
1 egg, mixed
2 sheets seasoned gim (dried seaweed), crushed
1/4 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1/8 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp salt

Put ddeok gook ddeok (thin sliced rice cake) in a cold water for 30 minutes. Marinate beef in soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper, sugar and minced garlic. Sauté beef. Set aside. In a pot, add cold water and myeol chi (dried anchovy), bring to a boil, reduce to simmer for 5 minutes. Take out myeol chi (dried anchovy). Add ddeok gook ddeok (thin sliced rice cake), bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium. Cook for 10-15 minutes until tender. Add green onions. Pour the egg in a little at a time. Let the egg set, then stir. (If you stir right after egg in, the broth gets milky.) Garnish with sauteed beef and some gim (dried seaweed).

Caleb and Charis Cheung of South Pasadena Children's Orchestra


12 oz Chardonnay or other white wine
2 tsp Lobster Base
juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch green onion, sliced
1 red pepper, diced
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 cup basil, chopped
6 Roma or plum tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb black mussels, washed
1 lb sea scallops
6 ea 2-3 oz Maine Lobster tails, split in half
1 lb linguine, cooked
salt and pepper, to taste


1. In a large bowl, mix the wine, lobster base, lemon juice, green onions, red pepper, parsley, basil and diced tomatoes and set aside.

2. In a large stockpot, sauté the 1 tbsp olive oil and garlic for 3-5 minutes over medium high heat.

3. Pour the wine mixture into the pot and bring to a boil. Add in the shrimp, scallops, and lobster tails and stir well, cooking 7-10 minutes until the seafood is done.

4. Serve this dish in large soup or pasta bowls, with a mound of pasta in the center, seafood piled around, and broth poured over the top.

Apple Nazareno of Philippine Chamber Singers of Los Angeles

  • Puto bungbong is a Filipino snack made out of the purple (almost black) rice called “PIRORUTONG”
  • It is milled/ground with water in a stone mill
  • The milled rice is then put in a cloth sack to take out the water
  • The dried rice is then put inside the bamboo shoots for steaming
  • The steamed rice is laid on banana leaves and buttered (use either real butter or margarine)
  • Topped with ground raw brown sugar or what the locals call “PANUTSA” and grated coconut

Lisa Haley of Lisa Haley and the Zydecats


1 lb raw shrimp in the shell per person
1 large pot with rack (to keep shrimp out of the water)
1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar to height of rack line
Per pound of shrimp: 1 Tbs Old Bay seasoning, 1 lemon, quartered, 1 small potato quartered, 1 onion quartered, 1 ear of corn halved

Put all ingredients but shrimp and corn in the pot. Place rack on top. Fill pot with water and vinegar to rack line. Bring water to boil, simmer 10 minutes. Add corn on top of rack and simmer 5 minutes. Add shrimp and simmer 5 minutes. Turn off the fire! Test a shrimp for doneness. Shrimp should be firm and fully pink, but not mushy. Pour out water, remove rack, mix all ingredients.

Serve with cocktail sauce: Per pound of shrimp, 1/2 cup ketchup and 1 Tsp horseradish.

Bon Appetit et Joyeux Noel!

Nehara Kalev and C. Derrick Jones of Catch Me Bird


This simple recipe for butternut squash soup is our favorite winter treat. It is super-healthy and makes us feel warm and nourished.

1 large butternut squash, peeled and diced
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
3 - 4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt (has no sodium)
Parsley to garnish

Sauté the onions in the oil or ghee until translucent. Add the squash and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the water (more for thinner soup, less for thicker soup) and the salt. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 25 minutes or until soft. Puree with an electric hand blender, straight into the pot, or use a regular blender. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Amy Campion of Antics Performance


2 pounds grass-fed ground beef
1 medium onion or 2 small onions, diced
4 cups cooked and cooled quinoa*
2 to 3 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon dried basil

Brown the ground beef in a deep skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Leave it pretty chunky (that's our preference; you can chop it up to smithereens if you want).

Add the diced onions and let them sauté in all the yummy beef juices.

Add the cooked quinoa,* salt, pepper, and basil. Mix without smushing up the quinoa. Let it all come to a warm temperature.

Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve.

To add a yummy touch, put a bit of shredded goat cheese on top of each person's serving.

*To cook quinoa: Rinse 2 cups of quinoa grain in a fine mesh strainer under cold running water for 2 minutes. Put the grain, 4 cups of water, and a dash of extra virgin olive oil in an 8-cup capacity pot. Bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer while covered. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. After about 15 minutes, fluff with a fork.

©Copyright 2008 by Wardeh Harmon.

Yolanda Hernandez of Mariachi Sol de Mexico
“Tamales and pozole are always a part of our tradition, plus posadas (an enactment of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary looking for lodging in Bethlehem), singing sometimes in our old neighborhood. Also kids break a piñata with little gifts and candy.”


2 cu. Maseca (a particular brand of corn flour)
2 cu. lukewarm water or broth
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cu. lard or vegetable shortening
Dried corn husks

Soak corn husks for at least 6 hours.

Combine Maseca, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Work in broth or water with your fingers to make a soft, moist dough. In a small bowl, beat lard or shortening until fluffy, add corn flour and beat until dough has a spongy texture. Prepare tamales with desired filling. This recipe will make enough dough for 16 small tamales. It easily doubles.

1/4 lb. boneless pork loin or shoulder (optional: chicken or beef)
1 1/2 oz. chile pasilla or California pods (stems and seeds removed)
1/8 cu. cooking oil (corn)
3/4 cu. water
1/2 tbsp. salt
16 corn husks
2 1/4 lbs. prepared corn flour mixture (above)

Cover meat with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until done (about 2 hours).

Lightly sauté chile pods in cooking oil. Place in blender, add water and blend until smooth.

Cut meat into small pieces, cook in cooking oil until browned. Add chile mixture and salt to meat. Cook approximately 7 minutes.

Soak corn husks for a few minutes and rinse well.

Spread corn flour mixture evenly over the smooth side of the corn husks, place a tbsp. of meat mixture in the center. Fold over sides towards the center, fold end of husk and pinch the open end, place tamales in steamer with the folded side on the bottom. Cover with a wet cloth or more husks, add water and steam, approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours.


Apple Nazareno of Philippine Chamber Singers of Los Angeles
“The traditional Filipino Christmas season is one of the longest celebrations around the world. The season typically starts at the beginning of September, at the start of the so-called “BER” months. Department stores start putting up Christmas decorations, and radio stations fill the airwaves with Christmas music... Radio stations and television shows alike begin the official countdown for Christmas. The season marks its end on the first Sunday of January which is the coming of the “Three Kings”...

“For children, especially, since aside from their birthdays, Christmas is the time when parents tend to buy them a new set of clothes and a new pair of shoes. It is also a time for caroling and other merry making. For the children, caroling is a way to get extra money for Christmas gifts and candies or maybe even a new toy. Typically, neighborhood kids get together for caroling and go from house to house within the town singing Christmas carols and accompanied by their home-made tambourine. This tambourine is no ordinary tambourine because it is made with bottle caps the kids collected from soda or other bottles. Each cap is flattened by hammer, or a mallet, or a hard rock. Then they are individually pierced at the center with a pick and then strung together in a wire. This is the sole instrument used for their caroling. Most people are quite generous and are happy enough to hand the carolers whatever modest donation they can give...”

Susan Pascale, conductor of South Pasadena Children's Orchestra, on her daugher Jenna
“She plays the cello. She started on violin when she was 2 years old and switched to cello at 5 when her mom needed more cellists for her children's orchestra. Now she is hooked on cello! Jenna is half Jewish and half Italian so she does a lot of celebrating during the holidays and receives many presents.”

“Each Hannuakah we light the menorah for eight nights and on all but one night Jenna receives a gift. On her night, Jenna will give presents to each member of the family (five in all). Here she learns it's just as fun to give as it is to receive. On one of those nights we look for another Jewish family to invite us for potato pancakes also called latkes.”

Mitchell Weiss of Angel City Chorale
“[Early each December] about 100 of us pile into two big buses and visit 5 or 6 places around the city of Los Angeles such as the Puente Learning Center for kids, Nazareth House for the elderly, the Salvation Army residence in West LA and finally Brentwood Presbyterian where we sing to 5 groups brought together for our Westside holiday concert. These groups are service providers for troubled people with addiction problems, abuse victims and others who are in general need. At some of the places we stop we bring gifts of toys, medical supplies and personal health and hygiene supplies for people without homes... ...many of our members find this day the highlight of their year in Angel City Chorale.”


Nehara Kalev and C. Derrick Jones of Catch Me Bird
N: Derrick and I are from very different places, both culturally and geographically. During the holiday season, we like to celebrate those differences, tell stories from our cherished holiday memories from the times before we met, laugh at each other, and spend time remembering people in our lives who have passed.

D: Though neither one of us is a 'believer' of any sort, we like to emulate the rituals that connect us to our families and childhoods. Nehara's family came to the U.S. as Jewish refugees from Hungary, having survived two major wars. She likes the simple act of lighting the candles of the menorah, and talking about her grandma, who I never got the chance to meet.

N: We would walk over to her cramped New York City apartment and open dozens of small gifts, and then stuff ourselves with Grandma's home-cooked Hungarian Jewish food.

D: In contrast, my friends and I would go out from the house, into the expanse of the snow-covered forest in the Berkshires, searching for the Yule Log that would win us the prize! We got smart and followed the snowy footsteps that would always lead us straight to it!

Apple Nazareno of Philippine Chamber Singers of Los Angeles
“A Christmas tradition that is unique to the Philippines is the hanging of the Christmas lantern or the parol (pronounced “pah-role”) outside homes. The word parol is derived from the Spanish term for lantern which is “farol.” It symbolizes the star of Bethlehem that led the three wise men to the manger where Jesus was born... The old fashioned lanterns are made out of bamboo sticks and Japanese paper. The modern version is made fancier by the “capiz” shells that are individually hand-painted and glued to the wire skeletons. Even the most modest of homes will have a parol hanging at the door or the window.”

Michael McCullough of Palmdale High School Choral Union
“We participate in the crèche festival where a local church displays crèches (nativity scenes) from many cultures in all sizes and holds music festivals and performances in the display hall.”

Kim Eung Hwa of Kim Eung Hwa Korean Dance Company
“On New Year's Day everyone cleanses their bodies then dresses in their best hanbok (traditional Korean clothes). Together, the extended family performs ch'arye (a ceremony to commemorate their ancestors). Followed by bowing to the elders starting with the grandparents, then parents, uncles and aunts. And the elders would give the younger generation money gifts. Serve the traditional Korean food ddeokguk, a rice dumpling soup (see “Food” for recipe) and traditional drinks such as shikhye (rice punch) and sujunggwa (a spicy concoction of persimmon and cinnamon).

“After eating ddeokguk, it is considered truly the New Year. On Seollal, traditional Korean folk games are played such as Yutnori (a board game played by tossing sticks), Paengichigi (top spinning) and Neolttwigi (standing, high-jump seesaw). Young boys engage in kite battles by trying to cut each other's strings by coating their own with powdered glass.”


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Eat, Sing and Be Merry

Eat, Sing and Be Merry
Several Holiday Celebration performers share their favorite holiday customs and recipes.

Inside the Artistry

Inside the Artistry
Take a closer look at some of the amazing artists in the L.A. Holiday Celebration.

Bonus! Holiday Celebration Plus

Bonus! Holiday Celebration Plus
More performances and profiles from the six-hour show at Los Angeles' Music Center.

About the Program

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