Marta Shore and her 13 year-old daughter, Greta, explain how their Jewish family has found different traditions to enjoy on Christmas Day.
As Jews living in Minnesota, it is hard to develop a Christmas Day tradition. In fact, there seem to be two categories of people in Minnesota: Lutheran and other. So unless you are planning on spending the day in church or around your tree, there isn’t much to do.
We’ve tried many things over the years. One year, we went to the public zoo, which is one of the few places that is actually open. However, a Minnesota zoo in the middle of winter is a kind of sad place. Most animals are indoors, and many are off exhibit. Plus, the zoo is comprised of several buildings with a lot of outdoor habitats in between, so there is a lot of trudging in and out of buildings. Another year, we learned that the aquarium in the Mall of America was actually open on December 25th, so we went there. We didn’t realize that, without a coupon, it was a very expensive way to kill an hour.
We’ve basically settled on a low-key day. We go out to eat and take in a movie. As Jews, we prefer to eat Chinese. It’s a tradition borne out of necessity, especially on the coasts. Chinese restaurants were one of the few restaurants open on Christmas. In addition, if we’re keeping kosher, Chinese food rarely uses dairy, so we can eat meat without having to worry about dairy.
Of course, Minnesota is different than the coasts. One of the most popular food items in Chinese restaurants in Minnesota is cream cheese wontons. Most Chinese restaurants are closed on Christmas–many Chinese restaurant owners here are Christian and want to celebrate the holiday with their families. The restaurants that are open often have their less experienced workers working and are usually mobbed. They often run out of food.
But the movies are open, and we’ve found a restaurant this year that we know will be open. So we’re going to go to dinner and catch a movie.
Maybe the Hobbit won’t be so busy on Christmas day.
Thoughts from Greta, age 13.
Being Jewish has always been a confusing experience. The fact that there were never more than 6 Jewish kids in my class, the holidays that no one gets why you skip school for, and the eternal question: keeping kosher or being able to eat bacon and cheeseburgers? I’ve heard it all: “Do Jews believe in god?” “Are you one of those extreme Jews?” (which makes me think there’s a TLC show called Extreme Jews) and the worst: “Your hair looks really Jewish.”
But the worst part is the holiday season. Everyone makes it seem like Hanukkah is a big deal. My family actually celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah; and we usually have latkes and a tree around mid-December. But then “Chranukkah” is over, and everyone’s back to their yuletide cheer.
Jesus was Jewish. I feel like he should have tried to make it easier for his future Jewish relatives when he was born and made a big holiday about it. But no, Christmas continues to happen while any non-Christians try to find something to do. We try not to make a big deal out of the day, but pretty much everyone else does. So when some Jewish guy’s friends were asking him what he was doing for Christmas, he decided to get Chinese food.
Kind of random, really. I mean, Chinese food? It doesn’t even make sense. Yet now that’s a thing Jewish people do. The first time we tried to do this weird tradition, we had less than great service. Soup does not take an hour to cook, the last time I checked. So why are we going this year?
Because it’s fun. We get to have lengthy discussions, eat delicious food, there are fortune cookies, and there’s bound to be another Jewish family in the restaurant. The whole point to the season is good times with family. And the weird, confusing, yet ironically fun tradition of Chinese food is one we might just keep up.
Photo: Flickr/Robert Couse-Baker