Saturday, December 19, 2009

For Jamie

One of my favorite American friends (Jamie) kindly asked if I'd do research on Australian Christmas and Chanukah traditions. Jamie is very interested in religious and holiday customs.

I wanted to please my friend....well, because I love her. But I felt a bit lazy about doing research on the subject. Plus, I think I've looked before, and I don't remember finding all that much. Or maybe that was wedding customs I looked at. I forget.

Anyway, I came up with a BETTER idea. I figured maybe people who read this blog could share their traditions. I know some of you are Australian, some are American, and some of you are neither. We can talk about our traditions. We can share and compare. If you don't want to share, that's okay. I shall still love you. But if you do share, I might love you a tiny bit more. Is that being too manipulative? Probably.

First, I'll share what I already know (or think I know) about the Australian December. First of all, it's summer at that time. There's no snow. We were in Port Stephens for Christmas 2007. I don't remember much. We ate a Christmas food that I picked up at the grocery store. Now I've forgotten exactly what it is. It was some type of cream. I thought you were supposed to eat it plain, but some kind Aussie tourist explained that you put it on cake/pudding.

I know in Australia, they do Christmas, and then Boxing Day on the 26th. In Sydney, there is the big Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. It's now sponsored by Rolex. Has it always been?

I think maybe Australians say Father Christmas instead of Santa Claus. I could be wrong about this.

I've heard that Australians go the seafood route, and often spend Christmas on the beach.

There are special Aussie Christmas songs. I've heard of The Three Drovers and Six White Booomers.

That's about all I know.

I'm going to share MY holiday traditions....because I'm so vain. Heaven forbid I do a post without talking about myself. Then I'm going to ask some questions that I hope you guys will answer.

When I was a child, we did the eight nights of Chanukah thing. Every night, my dad would light the Menorah and we'd sing the prayers. Then we'd sing the Dreidel song, and a really beautiful song called Maoz Tzur. I love that song. Wow. And I love the video that I just linked to. It features children from a variety of ethnic groups singing it. They sing so beautifully. I'm about to get goosebumps. I love the solo part.

After we did the candles and sang, we opened one gift each. Now a lot of Christian folks say Jews are lucky because we get eight nights instead of their one night. I kind of suspect you goyim are just trying to make us feel better because we don't get Santa Claus, a tree, candy canes, mistletoe....and Jesus is probably pissed at us as well. I see those looks of pity you guys give us. Oh, but how lucky you are. You get EIGHT nights.

Well, eight nights doesn't necessarily mean more gifts. I personally don't like it. The thing is we'd open all the fun stuff during the first few nights. Then during the last nights, we'd get the boring stuff....clothes and all that. Note: I was always the type of child to prefer toys and books to clothes.

These days, we do Chanukah all in one day. Now my older sister's family is much more religious than us. I think they probably do Chanukah every night. For the last few years, Tim, Jack, and I have completely bypassed the whole thing. We pretty much pretend it's not happening. There's no candles. There's no evening unwrapping of gifts. But one day a year, we get together with the grandparents, the aunts, uncles, and cousins. We do the Menorah together, and then we open gifts. During the past few years, we did Secret Santa. This year, we all agreed it would be best if we skip the adult gift exchange, and just buy gifts for the four children. In lue of the adult gifts.....Before our Chanukah party, we all drove to a place where we could donate gifts to a women's shelter. That was awesome. It felt SO good to give to people who needed it more than us. And I also have to admit it had been extremely fun for me to shop for the stuff.

During our party, we ate Chanukah Latkes (potato pancakes), and brisket. Well, the omnivores ate the brisket. My mom was incredibly sweet and also made a spinach lasagna. I had that for my meal, and the others ate it as one of their side dishes. For dessert, we had this ice-cream my dad had received as a gift.

All right. Now you're turn. Here are my nosy questions. Answer any that you want to, and ignore the ones you don't.

1. First of all, are you an Australian? American? Both? Neither? (you can skip that question if I know who you are).

2. Which holidays (if any) do you celebrate in December?

3. If you're in Australia now, but weren't there you have difficulty adjusting to Christmas being in the summer? Or if you're an Australian now in the Northern Hemisphere, do you have trouble adjusting to Christmas being in the winter?

4. What are your favorite holiday songs?

5. If you celebrate any holidays, is there religious significance for you. Or is it more about culture/tradition?

6. What foods do you associate with the holidays?

7. What do you do about gift exchanges? Do you do anything like Secret Santa or White Elephant? Do you exchange gifts with friends? Coworkers? Do you do special charity stuff?

8. Do you have favorite Christmas TV specials and/or movies?

9. Do you use any decorations? Tree? Lights? Gingerbread houses? If you have a tree, what do you decorate it with? I'm always curious about that subject.

10. Who do you usually spend the holidays with?

11. Is there anything about the holidays that make you sad or stressed out? (I know that's a very personal question. No obligation to answer. But if you feel like sharing....go ahead)

P.S-while searching for Chanukah song videos, I found this South Park classic. Oh and this song is VERY meaningful and important.