Christmas gets a lot of attention this time of year, in all its commercial glory. Loving Christmas isn’t a bad thing, but there are so many other celebrations this time of year that deserve observation and celebration. Sunday started the first night of Hannukah, and while it’s a relatively minor holiday in terms of theology, it’s one that I loved celebrating as a kid. Whether you are religious or not, I hope these suggestions remind you to embrace the small pleasures of the season: secular, religious, and cultural.
Eat: Though I grew up in an Irish Catholic family, I had many friends who were Jewish. I loved going over to their house for different holidays, because they were my teachers for their family and religious traditions. When I wasn’t busy watching The Rugrats Hannukah Special, I was busily counting my wins from playing dreidl and taking gelt out of its foil. But the best part of any Jewish holiday, to me, was the food. (Okay, so Passover aside – I liked my bread leavened.) And let me tell you: latkes are one of the best foods out there. I recently heard on a podcast that they’re fried in copious amounts of oil to mirror the eight nights the oil lasted in the Hannukah miracle. Am I ever glad that’s the case! Whether they’re served with applesauce or made from sweet potatoes, the humble latke is as versatile as it is delicious. Check out this great article with many different takes on the recipe, or visit the Trader Joe’s frozen food section to purchase some for reheating at home. If I may suggest: get their sauerkraut while you’re there. It’s in the refrigerated section. You’ll be eating like a rich man, doing Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof proud.
See: I almost let the Christmas season pass without mentioning the best tradition of all time: watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. I believe that it’s the single best interpretation of the story around. Michael Caine plays Scrooge so seriously, so deadpan, against a screen full of felt puppets. What more could you ask for? You can stream it on Disney+ as well as rent it from Apple TV+, Prime Video, or something called Vudu that I have not vetted but I imagine works just fine.
Do: I live in a town that loves animals. Seriously. It was one of my qualifications for moving here: I took my dog on a walk down the main street and I met no fewer than 5 dogs, whose owners were friendly and willing to talk about their own pets and listen to stories about mine. While my pet-owning experience is limited to dogs, my town loves cats as well. I’ve been noticing some styrofoam boxes popping up on porches, and someone clued me into the fact that they’re warming huts for outdoor cats. You can make your own winter cat shelter by using the instructions here, or you can buy one from chewy.com. If this is inaccessible or you don’t have the outdoor space, consider donating a few cans of pet food or a few dollars to the humane society in your neighborhood, while they continue the work of keeping the local animals safe and warm. (And during Hannukah, it just may make you a mensch: a person of integrity and dignity.)
May you have a miraculous, humbug-free, animal-loving weekend. Merry everything!