I bet everyone is expecting that my holiday memories will be about Hanukah. And, sure, I have plenty of Hanukah memories. But let me tell you a secret…Hanukah? Not actually an important holiday. The High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, and Yom Kippur) and Passover are the real big Jewish holidays, and they aren’t really known for being…fun, exactly. Hanukah was made important by people thinking that Jews needed to feel special around Christmas time too. And also that we needed to celebrate Judah Maccabee defeating the…Romans? Maybe? I just realized I have absolutely no idea what that war was actually about. There was a temple in Jerusalem and oil that lasted for eight days when it should have only lasted for one. And now we celebrate this every year by lighting a menorah and eating fried food and also giving each other crappy presents because…well, Christmas, that’s why.
But, anywho, my favorite holiday tradition actually has nothing to do with Hanukah, unless it happens to fall over the same time period as Christmas Day. I’m sure everyone knows about this, but it doesn’t make it less fun. For us Jews, there is nothing to do on Christmas. We have a day off with absolutely nothing to do. Nothing is open, and we get bored. So we all flock to the only places we can go…movie theaters and Chinese food restaurants.
I have always loved this tradition, due in no small part that I love any time that my family gets together. We always have a really hard time picking a movie we all want to see, though. I have vague memories of my dad taking my siblings and I to see the Lord of the Rings movies for a couple Christmases, and my mom didn’t go because she had no interest. I also remember seeing We are Marshall one year. That happened. And the infamous year when we were to see PS I Love You and my brother walked out and went to a different movie. And of course the year we saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and all the “kids” fell asleep. And then there was last year, when we spent all morning fighting over if we wanted to see Les Mis or Django Unchained, and then we got to the theater and both were sold out, so we had to bore ourselves to death and see Lincoln (which didn’t stop my sister and I from singing Les Mis songs all day).
Then, of course, there’s the part where we go for Chinese after the movie. For many members of my family, this is the only time a year they eat Chinese food these days, so it’s extra special. We actually go to the restaurant too, and always have a fun time bickering over what to get (hint: it’s usually General Tsao’s chicken, chicken and broccoli, and a couple random other dishes no one really wants). We run into the same Jewish families from around the neighborhood every year, make awkward small talk, and then forget about them for another year. It’s a good time all around.
So Jewish Christmas. That is my favorite holiday tradition. My favorite holiday memory is probably the year of Fake Thanksgiving/Mexican Thanksgiving, but that’s a story for another day (how do you like that cliffhanger…)