Growing up Jewish I never celebrated Christmas, but I did used to wonder about it. In the United States, no matter your persuasion, everyone is surrounded by the music, colors and characters of the holiday season for two solid months. However, it wasn’t Santa I wanted to know about, or the reindeer or the trees. I wondered about how families felt together when they brought out their once-a-year decorations or ate a special breakfast reserved for only for December 25. I imagined it felt as sentimental as seeing our seder plate only once a year on Passover or delighting in our special family tradition of churros, fried Mexican doughnuts, only on Chanukah.
I have always been fascinated by customs and family traditions and how they got started. Recently, my friend Erica from Pittsburgh shared her family’s Christmas tradition, which for me was a first to hear about: no presents. Erica explained that about ten years ago, her close-knit family realized that they were too stressed out about finding “perfect” gifts for everyone and in so doing, they were losing the meaning behind the holiday. So they decided to trade the hustle and bustle for the uncomplicated pleasure of enjoying each others’ company all season long in relaxed ways that everyone enjoys: cooking together, going out to eat and watching movies. Apparently once they made this switch they
never looked back, and for good reason – they have the ability to cherish what is really important to them in pleasurable and unhurried ways.
At my request, Erica’s mom was gracious enough to share a treasured family recipe with me, handwritten on a sheet of paper (in truth, it was a scanned and emailed copy of the handwritten recipe, but the true personal nature was definitely retained). I am honored to share it as my favorite kind of recipe, the kind that is a tradition to make every year at a certain time. The kind everyone anticipates with excitement because that time of year is rolling around again, and the kind that is created with an abundance of love. Erica’s mom never fails to make it for her family every year and I’m sure when she does, her heart is bursting with love.