Doing Christmas, Jewish Style!


Ahhhhh, Christmas.  I love it!  LOVE IT!

It’s an amazing time of year where people are stressed yet generally really nice to each other which makes it the perfect time of the year when its okay to be friendly without been seen as creepy.  I’m friendly all throughout the year but I get really energized this time of year.  People hold doors for each other, they greet each other, buy gifts for each other and hug each other.  It’s a great time of year and I wish people acted like this to each other every day of the year and not just in the month of December.  

So what does that mean for me and my family, being Jewish?  Absolutely nothing,  It’s not my holiday but it’s impossible to ignore.  I love to celebrate it with friends, family, colleague, anyone who wants to have us over to participate.  I love Christmas trees.  They’re pretty whether they are decorated with few homemade ornaments, or whether they are grand and decorated to the nines.  As well, the concept of waking up in the morning to a tree full of presents is pretty cool, no?  What about leaving milk and cookies out for Santa at night.  It’s also really cool nowadays that NORAD tracks Santa by radar and that kids can send letters to Santa at the North Pole and email him.  It’s magical.  Who couldn’t get caught up in all of it.

I like best when Hanukkah comes during the Christmas season.  Hanukkah, being 8 days long and a festival pales in comparison to the marketing juggernaut that comes with Christmas, and while dubbed the “Festival of Lights” we don’t put up any sort of “Christmas” lights (remind me why, again?!?) but we light a Menorah, or candelabra which holds 9 candles, 8 candles representing the 8 nights plus one candle called the “Shamash” which is the leader candle that gets lit first and is used to lights the others, starting from one candle for the first night, all the way up to the full eight candles on the last night.

As a capitalist, I like that Christmas stimulates the economy and I’ve even seen full cups of the homeless folks in downtown Toronto (and yes I was guilty of emptying my pockets for the one older fellow in St Andrew station on Friday).  Christmas is all about giving, not receiving, and that is a great message to reinforce to our younger generations, something that may be a little lost on our Generation y’s, wouldn’t you say?

For us, it all started two weeks ago, when I took both boys to assist in the selling of Christmas trees for our Boy Scout troop.  My Dad would have been so proud – since he really liked being involved in scouting.   But it was funny, because there was myself, Stewie and Linus, another family from India who did not celebrate Christmas either and one family from the UK who were our experts.  Once the place started hopping and people were everywhere, I had to be quick on my toes answering the questions that came to me.  After cutting the bottom inch off a tree for a family – with Stewie’s help, I might add – I had to ask… Why?  So the gentleman from the UK explained to me that by doing so, if the tree was going to be put up right away, would allow the water (sugar-water preferred) to soak into the tree and keep it fresh.  Who knew? 

I was also asked which tree would last longer, and which smelled better, which had the bluest hue and which would carry the most weight (ornaments).  Before I answered these with common sense, I recalled back to my first week working in the government way back out of University when the group I was in had just completed training and were assigned to teams.  My friend’s phone rang pretty much as soon as we got to our desks and all of us crowded over to hear what he was going to say to this caller. 

What we hear was him saying; “yup. uh huh, okay, yup, uh huh, yup” and we all sat with bated breath, then he said; “What do you think?” and after a pause, he said, “okay, bye”.  Turns out he had no idea what the person said, but that “what do you think?” got him off the hook.  Well, same theory applied here, folks.

So after selling trees during our shift, we headed home with another secret no one told us… That our jackets, gloves and clothes would be covered in the pine tar from the trees and be nearly impossible to remove.

So fast forward to Christmas day, and you will find all of us sitting down to a nice fondue for dinner.  It’s the first one the kids got to take part in and boy did they enjoy it.  We had tofu, tofu fishies, fish balls, baby bok choy, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, noodles, that fake crab, and so much more.  So after an hour of stuffing our faces, we watched some Treehouse on Demand, then settled in for the main event, a dark chocolate fondue in which we dipped strawberries, apples, pineapple, lemon pound cake, kosher marshmallows, and eventually I chopped up a giant triple chocolate cookie and we dipped that too.  SO MUCH CHOCOLATE! 

Needless to say, the kids loved it and we all ate so much that we were stuffed, except for the room to roast some marshmallows over the lights from the menorah.  That was great.  I showed Stewie how to do it and of course he picked up really quickly.  Him and I roasted them, toasted them and created marshmallow fireballs from them.  Stewie did not eat one, only I did, but Berry took a bite and quickly spit it back out.  Now I have to hide the BBQ lighter in case they decide to try it again.

So as I complete this post, it’s about 1:30am on the 26th of December, and there is only 365 days until Christmas (it’s a leap year this year) and I miss it already.  I want to keep the tree we have up in the office lit for a couple more weeks at the least and I hope to be able to get into a mall at some point in the next week in order to make some purchases and pick up some cool things we saw over the holidays. 

As for Hanukkah… There are still 2 more days left in the holiday and it won’t be the same now that Christmas is past, but we’ll try.  At least we get to spend some quality family time together due to the Christmas break. 

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and has a great end to Hanukkah.

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