If you’re Jewish like me and—and not very religious—your experience of Christmas is probably very different from the traditional family holiday featured in a Norman Rockwell painting. Even if you light Hanukkah candles every night and wrap eight gifts for each of your children, something still feels off. I just can’t relate to the television images of stampeding shoppers on Black Friday or the constant barrage of ads for Cyber Monday. Sometimes I feel a bit like an alien from a distant planet, observing the oddly frenetic (and commercial) family rituals that earthlings call Christmas. The parent creatures run around buying gifts for their offspring, trying to keep them convinced, for as long as possible, that it’s really a roly-poly man dressed in red with a white beard who’s bringing them the ipads and Xboxes on their wish lists from the North Pole. (When the Santa story stops flying, there’s always the tooth fairy.)
Happily (I hope!), we’re spending Christmas together as a family again this year—and getting in a couple of extra days with our kids too. While I imagine most American families are home having a Kodak moment, unwrapping Christmas gifts, sipping egg nog, devouring turkey and Buche de Noel, my family will go to the gym early (before it closes), take in a movie, and then go out for Chinese dinner. Sound crazy? Not according to Chinese restaurants in Manhattan—the only ones open on Christmas Day. Most Jewish people in Manhattan, who haven’t decamped for Mexico and the Caribbean, have rushed to make reservations at the popular Chinese restaurants. Our favorite, Pig Heaven, was booked solid for Christmas when I called for a reservation at the beginning of the week. I was welcome to come before 3 PM or after 9PM. (No, thank you). Luckily, Our Place, (another Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood) was willing to squeeze us in at 8:30 PM. (No, I’m NOT kidding.) As for the movies, this year we’ve carefully chosen a movie that’s NOT opening on Christmas day. We learned our lesson from being shut out of newly released movies on Christmases past. (I’m purposely not mentioning the movie we’re seeing, because I don’t want anyone out there to buy the last tickets on Fandango).
This year we’ll also be celebrating Max and Sarah’s 24th birthday on December, 26th AND on the 27th. On the 26th, we’ll shop for birthday gifts. What could be better than a sale right AFTER Christmas? On the 27th, we’ll go out for dinner to celebrate as a party of eight, including Sarah’s boyfriend, Max’s girlfriend, Grandma and my best friend/adopted sister. I’ve even ordered a giant chocolate ganache birthday cake, so my kids can blow out the candles together, like they used to do when they were little. Will three consecutive days of togetherness prove too much for my family? Maybe I’ve started to forget that families often drive each other crazy during the holiday season. Most families are NOT like the folks in It’s a Wonderful Life. Certainly, Henry is nothing like Jimmy Stewart, and I’m no Donna Reed. Stay tuned….
Jamie—Helena’s cat—has been scratched off the guest list. (No laughing matter.) Jamie bit Helena’s mother on Thanksgiving; the bite got infected, and her mom ended up on antibiotics for two weeks. Now Mom isn’t taking any more chances. Sequestered in another room, Jamie will be exiled from the holiday feast. And speaking of food, did I forget to say Helena is ordering in Chinese?