We’ve compiled a list of 39 things to eat, watch, read and do on Chrismukkah. The only hard part now is choosing!
Go out for (or make!) hot chocolate
Get your sugar rush at one of these restaurants, cafes or bars open on December 24 and 25.
• Try Max Brenner’s Pumpkin Spiced Mocha: hot chocolate mixed with espresso and homemade pumpkin syrup (NYC, $6)
• Sip on Parc Brasserie’s classic Hot Chocolat ($4.50), or if you’re feeling more adventurous, try their grown-up version Café Parc: French vanilla infused Tito’s Vodka and Kahlúa mixed with La Colombe Espresso (Philadelphia, $12)
• Bombobar serves up both a Hot Chocolate ($5) and a Hotter Chocolate — the latter comes with your choice of S’mores- or Funfetti-themed additions (Chicago, $9, December 24 only)
• Tel Avivians adore Benedict’s for their 24/7 breakfast food, but they also serve a hot chocolate to die for. (Tel Aviv, ₪13)
• Tmol Shilshom, an adorable literary-themed cafe tucked away a short walk from the busy shuk, serves the tastiest hot drinks in town. (Jerusalem, various prices)
• New Yorkers rejoiced when the Israeli coffee chain Aroma opened up locations stateside — they’ll rejoice even more when they try the hot chocolate with marshmallows over the holiday weekend (NYC, $4.95)
• Stuck at home? Make delicious Mexican Hot Chocolate with spicy chile powders and cinnamon
• Or whip up some Frozen Hot Chocolate if you’re blessed with warmer weather
• The curious palate will love Sachlav, a Middle Eastern take on hot chocolate
• But traditionalists might want to stick to Italy-inspired Bicerin, rich with heavy cream
Get in the Hanukkah spirit
Start celebrating those eight days right with some quirky, entertaining and sexy (yes, sexy) activities.
• Go see “Menorah Horah,” a Hanukkah themed burlesque show featuring comedy duo The Schlep Sisters on Christmas Eve. New York City, The Highline Ballroom, Tickets: $25 advance/ $30 at door
• Check out the lighting of the world’s largest menorah (4,000-pound, 32-foot-tall) in Brooklyn, New York. Grand Army Plaza, December 25, 8pm, Free.
• Eat chinese food and watch classics “Toy Story” and “Tootsie” at The Cape Ann Cinema & Stage in Gloucester, MA. December 24, 5:15-10:30, $20.00/adults, $12.00/kids 6-18.
• Listen to live jazz music and eat chinese food, latkes and gelt at Beth Menachem Chabad of Newton in Newton, MA. December 24, $5/advance, $10/at door, 7pm.
• Go to “Hanukkah at Universal Citywalk,” one of the biggest Hanukkah celebrations in Southern California. The event features a 1,000 pound menorah and Jewish rock bands Pardes Rock and 8th Day. December 24, 100 Universal City Plaza, 8-10 p.m.
• Dan Friedman’s piece on why he hates Hanukkah and you should, too
• Or Benjamin Resnick on learning to love Chrismukkah
• Feel for the woman who became The Grinch of Christmas Street
• And the rabbi whose daughter asked him for a Christmas Tree
• Snuggle up with a hot drink and a fresh print edition of the Forward
Go party hard
C’mon, you deserve it.
• Unattached and looking to meet people? Matzo Ball is a national party for Jewish singles. Parties are held on Christmas Eve and take place in Miami, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., New York and Los Angeles.
• Get your groove on listening Bollywood music (with a twist). DJ Rekha will be mixing Bhangra and Bollywood sounds with contemporary electronic dance music at (le) poisson rouge in New York City on Christmas. 10pm, $12/advance, $15/day of.
• Have a jazz-filled brunch at Blue Note in New York City. Tickets are $35 and include brunch, music and a drink.
Watch TV or go to the movies
Sometimes you just need to watch Netflix under the covers.
• Haven’t binge watched the new season of “Transparent”? Watch it on Amazon Prime.
• Go see Natalie Portman in the biopic “Jackie.”
• Check out Chelsea Handler’s talk show “Chelsea” streaming on Netflix for your pop culture, comedy and current events fix.
Make yummy Hanukkah themed treats
Eat Chinese Food
What’s more of a tradition than Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas Eve? Get your fix at one of these restaurants, all open Dec 24 and 25.
• Dine on traditional favorites at the chic and sleek O’Woks (Los Angeles, kosher, entrees $18-35)
• Buddha Bodai is a hidden Chinatown gem serving up vegan Asian cuisine (NYC, kosher, entrees $9-22)
• Even the hardest to impress guests will be moved by the fantastic offerings at Hakkasan (NYC, not kosher, entrees $24-158)
• Florida’s Jews are blessed with warm winter weather and the delicious food of Soho Asian Bar and Grill (Aventura FL, kosher, entrees $13-52)
• If you can’t decide between American, Israeli, or Szechuan cuisine, KB Grill & Wok has you covered (Baltimore, kosher, entrees $9-19)
• Members of Secret Tel Aviv often rave about Xing Long — and the fact that it’s open on Shabbat (Tel Aviv, not kosher, ₪46-80)
• Or perhaps spicy eggplant and sirloin steak stir-fry is more your thing?
• If you’ve got time, make your own Chinese 5 spice
• Then add it to this easy chicken stir fry
Laura E. Adkins is the Forward’s contributing network editor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @Laura_E_Adkins. Thea Glassman is an Associate Editor at the Forward. Reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter at @theakglassman.
(JTA) — All I want for Hanukkah is Christmas.
I grew up in suburban Chicago surrounded by my fellow Jews — at school, at camp, on the weekends, at my parents’ friends’ houses, in the streets and parks of my neighborhood.
Even then, I knew that Jews made up less than 2 percent of America’s population — but in my childhood world, we were the 99 percent. If you had stopped 11-year-old me on the street and asked, I could have recited lengthy Hebrew prayers by heart, or told you about the codifying of Jewish law in 200 C.E. But when it came to Christianity, I had a basic idea of what Easter was, and could have probably provided a brief bio of Jesus, culled mostly from popular culture. That was about it.
Until December rolled around, that is. Christmas was inescapable — and I loved it. I still do.
Christmas is everywhere. It’s at the malls, in the candy aisle of the grocery store, on the radio and TV, and in the movie theater. And I get how it can all be overwhelming. I understand how it’s a bit much for people to be bombarded starting from Thanksgiving — make that Halloween — with carols and candy canes and Santa and reindeer and manger scenes and ornaments and mistletoe and trees. And I know that for lots of people, it’s bit much how everything is red and green, especially if it’s not even your holiday. Plus — on an intellectual level, at least — I object to the commercialism, the conspicuous consumption and the tackiness of it all.
But if I’m being honest: I love the tackiness. I love the manufactured happiness. I love feeling snow on my shoulders, walking into a heated cafe, sipping hot cider and hearing a Christmas song — probably written by a Jewish composer — on the speakers. I love the contrast between the terrible weather and the enveloping cheer, however artificial it is. I love being able to enjoy the Christmas spirit without having to worry about how it affects the way I celebrate Christmas.
Because I don’t celebrate Christmas. See, we Jews have our own winter festival — it’s called Hanukkah.
Don’t get me wrong: I like Hanukkah. But in America, it’s kind of weak sauce. If Christmas is a thick, juicy hamburger on a sesame bun, American Jews have tried to make Hanukkah into a black-bean burger — something that’s perfectly edible but, really, nothing like the real deal. Hanukkah, like black beans, would be fine as its own separate thing. But instead we’ve flattened it into a cheap imitation of something else.
I’m Jewish, so of course I celebrate Hanukkah. I’m down with the story, the victory of the weak over the strong, the faith fulfilled when a small flask of oil lasted eight days. I’ve even nerded out over the two alternate Hebrew spellings of “Maccabee” and how they correspond to today’s religious-secular divide in Israel.
But I’ve never liked how American Hanukkah in certain ways becomes a diluted, Jewish version of Christmas. So the Christians give presents for Christmas? Sure, we’ll give Hanukkah presents, too. They have tinsel? Sure, we’ll have tinsel, too. They have holiday sweaters? Sure, we’ll have those, too.
Just as I can enjoy the Christmas spirit because I don’t feel personally invested in the holiday, I feel disappointed in Hanukkah precisely because I am invested in it. And in any case, Hanukkah is a minor holiday. I don’t begrudge its significance for anyone, but in Jewish tradition it’s treated as less important than Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover and a couple others.
That’s why, in Israel, where I lived for five years, Hanukkah is certainly celebrated, but doesn’t receive top billing. There are decorations, menorahs in the windows and sufganiyot — doughnuts filled with jelly or cream — on bakery shelves. Kids get a few days off to sing and play. Giving Hanukkah presents isn’t really a thing there.
Contrast that with the season that runs from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkot and Simchat Torah, a series of festivals and holidays that ended several weeks ago. In Israel, before Rosh Hashanah, supermarkets are stocked with apples, honey and pomegranates, and temporary stands sell greeting cards on the sidewalks. On Yom Kippur, the streets and shops are all closed. Religious people wear white and gravitate en masse to synagogue, while those who aren’t fasting crowd the empty streets with bikes. On Sukkot, there are temporary huts seemingly everywhere, from people’s porches to public squares.
For close to a month, little business gets done. Need to schedule a meeting or start a work project? “After the holidays” is the common refrain. The Jewish holidays there are celebrated on their own merits, not judged against the overwhelming dominance of another religion’s season.
So spare me your Chrismukkah and your Hanukkah bush, and let me culturally enjoy the most wonderful time of the year the way America clearly wants me to.
After all, if Bob Dylan can rock out to an album’s worth of Christmas music, so can I.
For those who are students of comedian Sarah Silverman’s take-no-prisoners humor, this one seems almost tame.
On Christmas Day, just as the sun was coming up, Silverman posted these words on Twitter and Facebook: “MERRY CHRISTMAS! Jesus was gender fluid!”
She’s been trending on social media ever since.
One critic scolded on Twitter: “Have some respect.”
@SarahKSilverman Have some respect . Not even funny— Barry Morgenstein (@BarryMPhoto) December 25, 2015
Another social media wag challenged her to say something about Islamic holidays.
Silverman has hit out at Christmas in the past, including in the video, “Give the Jew Girl Toys.”
And at Jesus, specifically with 2005’s film, “Jesus is Magic.”
(JTA) — Director and writer Jonathan Levine (“The Wackness,” “50/50”) may have grown up in Jew-centric Manhattan, yet he recalls feeling somewhat like an alien every Christmas.
“I don’t think it was malicious,” Levine, 39, says in a telephone interview with JTA. “But, in a way, I felt like an outsider looking in at the party.”
The sentiment only heightened post-holiday, when his Christian chums came to school wearing or bragging about all the great gifts they received.
Levine’s Christmas was a tad different from his peers, though it may be one familiar to Jews across the U.S.: dinner with the family at a Chinese restaurant.
As a young adult in his early 20s, however, he and a group of friends started a tradition of their own. They would “stumble around looking for the very few places that were open, usually filled with weird people,” he says. “Inevitably crazy stuff would happen.”
“Not as crazy as the movie, though,” Levine adds.
Ah, yes, the movie. In Levine’s “The Night Before,” which opens Friday, childhood friends gather for their annual Christmas Eve night of debauchery. Isaac (played by Seth Rogen) is about to become a father and is frightened by the prospect; Chris (Anthony Mackie) is on the last legs of an NFL career and is taking drugs to sustain it; commitment-phobe Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is miserable because he let the girl of his dreams get away.
It seems this will be their last bacchanal, so they embark on a drug-and-alcohol-fueled search for the Nutcracka Ball, a super-secret yet reportedly the ultimate holiday party.
Given the plot and its cast, there is of course a sizable raunchy, laddie element to the film. But at its heart there is a sweetness to “The Night Before” concerning friendship, growing up and a Don Quixote-like search for the elusive meaning of life.
“Certainly, it’s a quest of sorts,” Levine says. “Each person is missing something in their lives and believes finding this party with friends will fill that void. In the end, there is something to be said about expectations versus reality — and that’s in there beneath all the dick jokes.”
Reminiscing about his own Christmas Eve journeys, Levine says, “What I really loved about it was that the holidays were such an emotional time — whether you’re Christian or Jewish — and the feeling of being really close to your friends was wonderful.”
Levine’s group was mostly Jewish, but included a few non-Jews “who didn’t like their families,” he says.
“It made me realize that the traditional perfect Norman Rockwell painting family didn’t exist, and that was fertile ground to explore in a movie,” he adds.
The film is laugh-filled, but some guffaws may be a bit uncomfortable. Historically in the film business — and in real life — Jews have attempted to fly under the radar, a kind of head-in-the-sand mentality suggesting there is safety in anonymity. While that certainly is changing, what Issac, the only Jewish character in the film, does in one scene seems to cross a line — or come close to it.
Every year the boys get new, outlandish holiday sweaters to wear for the evening. Isaac’s features a Star of David, and it’s what he has on when he winds up attending Christmas Eve Mass with his wife and in-laws — and drunkenly throws up in the aisles of the church.
“I think that it’s kind of nice that he’s wearing his [Star of David] and that he’s proud of who he is,” Levine says. “I think that’s pretty cool, though I don’t know what that says culturally [about how young Jews are portrayed in film]. This character was always struggling with what it’s like to be Jewish on Christmas and the fact that he wears the star with pride is a positive thing.”
Still, Levine — who started making movies when he was 12 — admits that he was surprised that people weren’t offended when he started screening the movie.
“To me that goes to the inherent sweetness of the film,” he says. “This movie is funny, not blasphemous. The movie has such sweetness, I don’t think anyone feels we’re making some sort of statement about religion.”
Three of the movie’s four writers — Levine, Ariel Shaffir, Evan Goldberg and Kyle Hunter — are Jewish; Hunter is the only non-member of the tribe.
“We all identify very strongly with Judaism culturally, and we write about what we know,” Levine says. “There was never any notion that we wanted to hide it.”
Levine started making movies when he was 12 years old.
“I wouldn’t say we were incredibly religious,” he says of his family. “We observed the High Holidays and did a little more than the bare minimum that a lot of Reform Jews do.”
Today, as the father of a 2-month-old, Levine most closely identifies with Rogen’s character, who is uncertain he’s ready for fatherhood. Levine, by contrast, was prepared to be a dad — and he’s already had alone time with his son. His wife was the lucky one to attend James Franco’s bar mitzvah — whose genitals, as it happens, make a cameo in “The Night Before” — while he stayed home on diaper duty.
As for his plans this Christmas, Levine says he’s returning to his roots: He and his family will celebrate with some Chinese food and a movie
Who knew Jews did anything but eat Chinese and go to the movies on Christmas?
Seth Rogen has other plans.
“Made by Jews, is about Christmas, and opens on Thanksgiving,” Rogen posted about his new movie, “The Night Before,” on Facebook.
Aforementioned Jews: Seth Rogen (Isaac) and Joseph Gordon Levitt (Ethan), and Anthony Mackie (Chris) — all set to star in the comedy that opens on November 25.
The Plot: It all starts with three best friends, who have hung out on Christmas Eve for years. Now they’ve all grown up (more or less) and have decided that this is going to be their last Christmas Eve celebration (“The best Christmas party in New York City!”) — and boy, are they going out with a blast (of drugs).
Especially Jewy: Seth Rogen’s blue Star of David sweater that he wears the entire time, including while attending a Christmas party and in church. When he passes a group of Hasidic Jews eating Chinese food, they give him a solid nod of approval.
Lizzy Caplan has a cameo, as does Mindy Kaling and even Miley Cyrus, who belts out “Wrecking Ball.”
Remember, kids: “We did not kill Jesus! We did not do that!”
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