L’Chaim For The Holiday

CHA_ornament_122305Rumor has it that Christmas is coming soon, and perhaps no other season is infused with as many longstanding traditions! Of course, longstanding traditions are made to be broken. After all, Christmas is a very popular occasion, but not everyone believes in Santa Claus. For those who—for whatever reason—need or just want to make changes to the ages-old holiday routine, the Rituals Committee of Congregation Sons of God offers these suggestions. Buy all means, feel free to mix and/or match… and enjoy!

No Tannenbaum?

Maybe you don’t have room in your tiny home for even a small Christmas tree. Maybe you have plenty of room but you don’t want to deal with the set-up and cleanup. Maybe you live in a huge mansion… which you can afford because you don’t waste money on things that you’ll use only between December 24 and New Years Day (or Tax Day, at the very latest). You can still have a festive holiday display! You don’t have to feel poor, cheap, or lazy! Consider a holiday candelabrum. What could be more festive than a large, branched candleholder? And if one candle says, “Merry Christmas!” then just imagine the message that, say, nine colorful candles will convey to visitors to your cozy home. (Put it on a dishwasher-safe tray on a windowsill and announce: “I love this holiday and I’m eco-conscious!” Yule be the star of your neighborhood!)

Mistle… toxic?

Of course the ornament-festooned evergreen isn’t the only important piece of traditional holiday greenery—there’s mistletoe, too! “Mistletoe” is the common name for many obligate hemiparasitic plants in the order Santalales, which everyone knows… but did you know that mistletoe is toxic to humans? Well, it might be! Where, when, why, and how exactly the tradition of hanging sprigs of the stuff in doorways and encouraging people to kiss under them started is unclear, but in any case, if you’re looking for an alternative to brighten up your home and turn up the heat, maybe use something with authentic origins in the Bible itself: burning brambles! And burning brambles clean up after themselves!

To Nog or Not?

The go-to quaff of Christmas has long been egg nog (sometimes written as “eggnog” but pronounced the same way), a sweetened dairy-based beverage traditionally made with milk and/or cream, sugar, and whipped eggs, to which spirits such as brandy, rum, and/or bourbon are often added, and which concoction is then typically garnished with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon or nutmeg. The drink is at once undeniably delicious and extremely fattening. It will also immediately raise your LDL cholesterol level, leading inexorably to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other serious medical problems. Rather than commemorate the birth of a famous figure by sending yourself to an early grave, then, you might instead celebrate by drinking “wine,” an alcoholic beverage usually made from fermented grapes. There are many purveyors of grape wines, including the B. Manischewitz Company, LLC of Cincinnati. (For those who prefer not to consume alcohol, have some grape juice on hand. A company called Kedem sells grape juice year-round.)

Christmas… in Garlic Sauce?

Christmas isn’t just for drinking, though. There’s a feast to be enjoyed, too, and the traditional holiday feast features any or all of several different kinds of animal flesh, from the Christmas goose to the Christmas ham to Christmas fish dishes, even! If you’re feeling particularly adventurous or contrary this year, you might serve none of these… but if you’d like to serve the usual subjects, only in a non-traditional manner, change things up by borrowing recipes from other cultures. The Chinese, for instance, do some very tasty things with poultry, pork, and sea creatures. “Chinese food on Christmas Eve?” you ask. Well, why not? 33 million Chinese Christians can’t be wrong!

How Many Holy Days?

Finally, there’s the question of just how long your Christmas celebration should last. For many, Christmas is a one-day-plus affair, starting on the night (or “eve”) of December 24th and continuing the whole of the 25th. Some, though, observe twelve days of Christmas. If one day isn’t quite enough for you, but twelve days is too many, there’s nothing wrong with a compromise. You might choose to celebrate for six days, or seven, or eight. Indeed, eight days somehow seems just right for a wintertime religious holiday. And, that said, we sincerely hope you’ll enjoy yours, whatever spin you choose to put on it!

Speaking of things to spin… ah, but that will have to wait for another column.

What do you think?

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4 Responses

  1. Erica

    I loved this! My husband and I are both jewish. Our 3 yr old blonde haired blue eyed daughter is jewish. I went to Solomon Schechter Day School 7-12th grade. ( I don’t wanna talk about it) we were married by a rabbi. We belong to a temple and go not just on high holidays. We wear mezzuzahs and hamsas. I still don’t eat pork cause it’s weird. This is the first year in my 47yrs that I put up a Holiday Tree. And it was free I might add- an unused tree from a store display my work wasn’t using. Combined with lights from my husband’s store that they weren’t using. I began to build my tree. At the top I placed a black cat Halloween decoration that symbolized our beloved cat Lazar Wolf-Cat. He died the day we brought home our daughter Miriam. And throughout the tree we placed dragonfly knickknacks and winged hearts that symbolize our son Noah who died 5 yrs ago and just shy of 2 yrs old. So as you can imagine, holidays can suck. Noah is still missing. We are so thankful and in love with our daughter we named in Hebrew, Peninah Tikvah as she IS our Pearl of Hope. Hope that we could be somehow happy again after Noah died. And now this pretty decoration simply says to me to try to have those peaceful pretty times at home in cold winter months. We all need sparkling lights nowadays, maybe especially the jews. And I will try not to feel jewish guilt about my tree…or my snowman wreath that I just put up when my husband went out for bagels. Shhhhhh

  2. stacey

    lol and :). love and peace… btw- I too have a little shiksa-full on Jewish little girl. You sound like a lovely person/family. You all deserve joy, keep your memories of Noah close but enjoy making new ones with your family. I hope you had a Happy Hanukkah, (Christmas!) and New Years… it doesn’t matter that you throw in some “Christmas” you know who you are….

    • stacey

      btw- my comment was really in response to Erica. Not the article- though I enjoyed that as well. :)

  3. Erica

    Thank you Stacey! Easter is coming. No spiral ham but I’m sure some plastic eggs, a hollow chocolate bunny, and some $1 bunny ears I may or may have not just purchased at Target, will make their way into our humble apartment.


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