Every year, from Thanksgiving Eve until New Year’s Day, there is a feeling in the air of Christmas — and Hanukkah, multiple Shabbatot, many simchas and professional parties.
Christmas is basically a traditional Jewish way of life. We know Jesus Christ was Jewish, and that for centuries our people have been the targets of anti-Semitism because of it. However, this practicing Jew looks at Christmas and all the joy it brings as a sign of Jewish values and many, many successes.
Look at the time spent on family gatherings. Waiting on crowded highways, sitting in airport lounges and spending hundreds of dollars to share a meal, an overnight stay, and to spend valuable time together. We observant Jews do it weekly. My non-Jewish friends often joke about wishing how they had the ability to turn off a phone, like we observant Jews all do every Shabbat. Some wonder how they will ever get everything together in time for a festive meal. My answer: You don’t have religious laws restricting your time, so just Go For It!
One tradition I take advantage of from Christmas dinner are the multiple fish course recipes shared. After eight days of fried everything during Hanukkah, nothing tempts me more than trying new takes on salmon, tuna and all the various white soles and basses. Apparently, I am not the only one. I found two great salmon recipes in a new kosher cookbook, “The Healthy Jewish Cookbook” by Paula Shoyer. I also found some more in “Kosher Taste, Plan, Prepare, Plate” by Amy Stopnicki.
Let’s Go Shopping
How does holiday season begin? With the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade followed by all the sale days. Macy’s best-known owner was Isidor Straus, who died in the sinking of the Titanic. Jewish ties to retail, wholesale and Internet shopping are well known and documented. So are the houses of fashion and distributors of merchandise.
Those sales on giving. I can’t believe that I actually mosaic Chanukah menorahs for $2.00 and glass serving trays reduced over 75 percent. I even bought decorations for my Sukkah and some cheese carving boards for my Shavuot tea party.
Television, Movies, Music and the Arts
I admit: I am a Christmas movie addict. What better way to spend quality family time than to watch the classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or the Hallmark Channels and their 24-hour features? Personally, I wish there were a Hanukkah story or two. Why not a movie called “Latkes Fried With Love” or “Dreidel Competition”?
David Lehman, author of “A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs”, from Nextbook Press, says that this Christmas phenomenon is just one example of his larger point: that the story of American popular music is massively a Jewish story. Tablet magazine asked Lehman to list his 10 favorite Christmas songs written by Jews. His only regret? “I really wish that ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ was by Jews,” he says. “That would definitely be in the top five.”
It’s also a great time to predict award nominees and Jewish geography. Will Steve Speilberg win another Oscar? Which singers who defy the BDS movement and perform in Israel go to the Grammy Awards? Which Jewish or Israeli designers and stylists make the red carpet with their clients?
Party Planning for 2018
According to CC of Prep_a_Partee, a well-known event planner from Lakewood, who caters to clients for simplistic Shabbos meal and weddings shared with hundreds of guests, “Party planning this time of year is easy anytime. Here are some tips for a last-minute planner:
1. Shop your house. You never know what you have in your own stash that can work. Serving pieces in same color or all glass do not have to match exactly.
2. Ask all guests to come in a certain color for example all white or all black. Even all red. It will look great with everyone matching even if you don’t go all out with decor.
3. Amazon Prime is AWESOME! You can find anything and everything you need to make a party and get everything in just two days delivered to your door.
4. Set the mood with a good playlist, build a fire if you have a fireplace and light votives everywhere. [use tea lights if that’s the only thing you have]
5. Wine glasses, champagne glasses, martini glasses all can be repurposed as tea light- or candle-holders, if you flip them upside down. You can even put a single flower under the bottom glass part to add that extra touch.
5. Tablecloths are not necessary if you have nice marble, granite or even formica countertops. Put out a buffet of food or desserts directly on the counters uniformly.
6. Remember to enjoy yourself. For more tips, email email@example.com and follow on Instagram.
Don’t Have Plans. Go to my Instagram account, @cindyscorners and my partner @successwithteamwork and follow, like and tag four friends to win a pair of tickets to a New Years Eve party at one of New York City’s private gatherings in Marquee or Guastavino’s Night Clubs.
As we light our next Shabbos candles, let’s appreciate the feelings of love, the extra holiday greetings we share on the street with strangers and the sweetness of a simple cup of hot cocoa or a bite from a basic sugar cookies or a toast on an award-winning Israeli, Kosher champagne or sparkling wine, let’s take this holiday spirit of 2017 and spread it throughout 2018.
Cindy Grosz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her syndicated column, You Don’t Have To Be Jewish With Cindy features the best of Jewish and Israeli traditions and cultures to a mainstream audience. Grosz is also a recognized freelance journalist. She is a noted Pro-Israel and Education Activist in the United States.