During the Christmas season, there’s nothing quite as traditional as hanging stockings over the fireplace while waiting for Santa Claus to arrive.
For Clovis residents Tamera and Bryan Wong, stockings are hung by the dozen.
Since 2004, the Wongs have adopted eight children from China and have four biological children as well, bringing their kid count to 12: Breanna, 19; Brandon, 17; Blythe, 17; Bryce, 16; Brady, 12; Brooklyn, 12; Bethany, 10; Braxton, 10; Bayley, 8; Bella, 6; Beka Joy, 4; and Bennett, 4.
With such a big family, Christmas traditions are all the more exciting for the Wongs.
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“We try to keep the hustle and bustle simplified, but we also have a lot of really fun traditions that we enjoy,” said Tamera Wong, 45. “We have traditions of the season, not just the day. That includes Christmas Eve service, recitals, Christmas trees and nativity scenes.”
In another tradition, children draw each other’s names from a hat and they each buy a gift for the person whose name they drew.
“On Christmas Eve, the two people sit next to each other, the giver and the receiver. The giver says four to five things that they really like about that person that stood out over the year. It’s become a really special time,” Tamera explained.
She said that this event brings the siblings together by strengthening their relationships with one another.
“Even though we have a big family, people don’t get lost in the mix of the holiday,” Tamera said.
Braxton said his favorite part of Christmas is when his cousins visit.
“The best part about it is that when they come over, you can play games,” he said. Some of his favorites include board games Monopoly and Life, and the card game Speed.
They didn’t really recognize holidays (in the orphanages of China). The wonder of Christmas, seeing it for the first time in a 13 and a half-year-old’s eyes or through a 4-year-old’s eyes, which have never seen the lights and the wonder and the excitement, that’s pretty thrilling.
Tamera Wong, on her adopted children
Bethany said that she enjoys spending time with her family and celebrating Jesus’s birthday during the Christmas season. She said that it is fun having a big family “because you have a bunch of brothers and sisters that you can play with.”
Opening stockings is another fun tradition for the Wong family.
“Everybody every year gets great, awesome, fun stuff in their stocking, but everybody gets coal in their stocking, also,” Tamera Wong said. “It’s our symbol, our tangible reminder that nobody’s perfect and we’re all going to make mistakes.”
With her husband being half Chinese and half Japanese, all of the children are able to connect with their cultures.
“They actually have a grandpa who is full Chinese, and aunts and uncles who are Chinese, and cousins who are part Chinese, so that’s kind of fun,” said Wong, who is German and French herself. “We do celebrate Chinese New Year and Moon Festival and we eat lots of Chinese food and rice.”
Another aspect of the holidays that brings the family together is food. By recognizing both Tamera and Bryan’s family traditions when they were growing up, the Wongs are able to connect through the food they eat.
“My family always did ebelskivers, which is a Danish breakfast,” Tamera said. “So we always make ebelskivers and sausage and bacon on Christmas Day, and then Bryan’s family always had prime rib, so we always do that as well for Christmas Day. We combine both traditions.”
The Wongs have been able to make these memories and bond as a family ever since they decided to adopt, expanding their family a little more over the years as they brought more children into their lives.
About 12 years ago, Tamera and Bryan Wong were involved with orphan relief work, collecting donations, toys, clothes and other items for the children. Their oldest daughter suggested that what the orphans really needed was a family, opening their eyes to the possibility of adoption.
A visit to orphanages in China led the Wongs to see the harsh conditions these children face, and they adopted a little girl in 2004. After visiting other orphanages, they decided to adopt another child.
“We chose the special needs route at that point, and we decided that we thought limbs were pretty overrated,” Tamera explained. “You don’t really need all of your limbs, so we chose that special need. We adopted our daughter Bethany, who is missing part of her arm, and quickly learned that really isn’t a special need. She can do pretty much everything.
“We’ve got some physical special needs in there and a couple intellectual special needs in there, so it makes life fun and interesting,” Tamera said. “None of them were adopted from birth. The youngest was Brooklyn at 11 months, and the oldest was Blythe at 13 and a half.”
Tamera said that for her and her husband, adopting has turned their lives “upside down, in a good way.” They feel lucky to be able to live each day doing what they were called to do.
“I think it’s a rare blessing, so we try not to take that for granted,” she said.
Wong said that many of her children had never experienced Christmas before while at orphanages in China.
“They didn’t really recognize holidays there,” she explained. “The wonder of Christmas, seeing it for the first time in a 13 and a half-year-old’s eyes or through a 4-year-old’s eyes, which have never seen the lights and the wonder and the excitement, that’s pretty thrilling.”
Christmas is a different experience for the children they adopted at older ages, as well.
“They remember what it’s like to be in an orphanage and not celebrate those things, they seem extra appreciative and that makes it really fun,” Tamera said.
Three of her children, Bayley, Bethany, and Braxton, recently performed with the dancing group Break the Barriers, which is part of a community center with activities for “the abled and differently abled.”
Bayley, who was born with congenital limb deficiencies, had both of her legs amputated upon being adopted.
“She was old enough to understand what was happening and she was really actually excited to get new legs, her prosthetics,” Tamera said. “She was super excited because she really wanted to dance. She had seen people in China dance and she had seen her sister dance, and so that probably is one of the big highlights for me: seeing the kids in a recital and seeing Bayley up on stage dancing.
“Where we’re at in life allows us to not take for granted the small things that are really big things, like being able to dance on stage, or being able to be with your family and be warm on Christmas Day, not being cold in an orphanage.”