“Jewish Christmas” — as some like to call the rituals American Jews have adopted during the Christian holiday — is one of my favorite days of the year. It’s also a delight I didn’t even know existed until I was in my 20s and living in the U.S. (I grew up in Israel). I actually met my Jewish husband on Christmas eve — at a Jewish Christmas party.
In our years together, we’ve celebrated this anniversary of sorts the true Jewish way — Chinese food and a movie. We’ve always enjoyed exploring the city on December 25; with everyone huddled at home with their families, eating meals and unwrapping presents, the streets are blissfully empty.
This year, of course, due to the pandemic, Christmas will be very different — and so will Jewish Christmas. Most of us won’t be flocking to restaurants and movie theaters. Instead, we’ll stay at home, watch some Netflix, and maybe go for a long walk, depending on the weather.
But that doesn’t mean that Christmas 2020 can’t be the best Jewish Christmas yet. There are so many great ways to enjoy this break from school or work — Christmas is a national holiday, after all! Just as we have with every Jewish holiday since Passover, it’s not terribly challenging to adjust old traditions and start fun new ones. Here are some ideas for having the best Jewish Christmas ever.
Join some live Jewish programming
Christmas Day is actually on Shabbat — so why not participate in a virtual tot Shabbat?
You can join the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center at 9:45 AM Eastern for virtual Shabbat family fun.
And you can join us for our lively yet intimate Kveller Kabbalat Shabbat at 5:30 PM Eastern with musician Alicia Jo Rabins.
Join our partner site My Jewish Learning for an incredible night of Jewish learning, laughter, and fun. Seriously, we’re very into the programming they put together for Christmas Eve — you can join them all, or pick and choose! Older kids with later bedtimes may also be interested in some of these offerings.
The evening starts at 7 p.m. ET with conversation with Rabbi Joshua Plaut about how Jews have dealt with Christmas through the decades.
At 8 p.m., you can learn how to make dumplings with chef Kian Lan Kho — yum!
Then, at 9:15 p.m., Jewish trivia with Rabbi Benjamin Resnick. If you’re competitive about your Jewish knowledge you are going to want to join this one.
But the best may be at 10:15 p.m., safely after bedtime: Jewish mom and stand-up comic Talia Reese will delight us with a funny comedy set!
It is all very much free and you can sign up for it here.
This pandemic has been a great time for everyone who isn’t an over-exhausted parent to learn new skills. But if your kids love to spend time in the kitchen, a joint day off might be a great time to start a new cooking project — or teach yourself to make some Chinese take-out classics instead of (or in addition to!) ordering in. Our sister site The Nosher has 17 Chinese takeout recipes to make at home.
You can also take up another Jewish cooking or baking project. Why not spend the day making a festive babka or challah? Or commit to celebrating Jewish diversity in 2021 by exploring the diversity of Jewish food beyond Ashkenazi classics. Make one of these incredible Yemenite recipes, or Persian recipes; or try this delicious Ethiopian chicken or a scrumptious Moroccan mufleta.
Bring the Christmas movie-going traditions home with a fun in-home screening. You can even invite your extended family to have a virtual watch party! Here are some fun ideas:
Head downtown (virtually):
The Museum of American Jewish Heritage is hosting an incredible screening of THE BEST Jewish rom-com ever made, Crossing Delancey, with the movie available to stream all day on the 25th. But that’s not all: The film “will be accompanied by a discussion with the star of the film, actor Peter Riegert, the screenwriter, Susan Sandler, and Sirius XM radio host Jessica Shaw, plus a pickle-making demonstration with chef David Teyf.”
We can’t think of a better way to spend Jewish Christmas than introducing this Jewish classic to a new generation. Sign up here to join.
You can also follow it up with another Jewish pickle movie, An American Pickle on HBO Max, if you’re looking for a themed Jewish Christmas.
Spend Christmas with Gal Gadot:
Wonder Woman 1984 is finally coming to HBO Max on December 25! Spend the day cheering at Israeli star Gadot kicking butt and enjoy some quality 80s nostalgia while you’re at it!
Have an inconceivable Christmas:
The Princess Bride, available on Disney+, is a delightful family movie — and there are also so many Jewish things about this incredible classic. If you feel like getting a little weepy after, watch this recent remake of the final scene with Carl Reiner (may his memory be for a blessing) and his son, Rob.
Have a family singalong:
Christmas Day is a great time to watch a musical, and maybe even have a family singalong — you can have a watch party with grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and make a virtual hangout out of it! A classic and never-wrong choice is Fiddler on the Roof, available on Netflix. Obviously, there’s Hamilton, which is now on Disney+. It’s not nearly as Jewish as Fiddler, but there are a lot of fun Jewish tidbits you may want to share during your watch party!
Did you know that the greatest Christmas songs were written by Jews? If your family is a fan of Christmas songs (hey, no shame in it!), celebrate their Jewish origins with a fun karaoke party! Speaking of Jewish music, this is a chance to introduce your kids to this Jewish Christmas classic:
Jewish dance party!
If karaoke’s not so much your thing, try a Jewish dance party! Put on an Israeli pop playlist and dance the day (or night) away.
Support! Your! Local! Businesses! Restaurants all over the country are struggling, and they need our help — and our business. That’s especially true for Chinese and Asian businesses that have doubly suffered because of Covid-related discrimination. So this year, that age-old tradition of eating Chinese food on Christmas may be even more vital than usual.
Whenever possible, order directly from the restaurant, and leave hefty tips for delivery people. Not only are they risking their lives during a pandemic, but they’re working during a holiday.
If your family loves to craft, this is a great time to have a fun creative day indoors. The nearest Jewish holiday, Tu Bishvat, isn’t until January 27, but you can make other Jewish crafts, like a new tzedakah box, some Shabbat candlestick holders (you can get some ideas in this menorah craft article), a challah cover, Hebrew signs to hang on your walls, and more.
And you don’t have to craft Jewishly! Celebrate the coming cold season with some fun winter-themed crafts.
Enjoy the fresh air
Here on the East Coast, at least, it’s going to an unseasonably warm Christmas. If weather permits, the day off is a great opportunity for a safe outdoor hang with other Jewish families — or keep it cozy and just hang with your own! Take a walk, enjoy nature, go foraging.
Take a nap
This year has been hard — to say the absolute least. Go ahead and treat yourself with a long nap. You deserve it! Stay in your PJs all day and laze around with the fam. If your kids end up having more screen time so you can take some ZZZs, relax. You need it. We still have some long months ahead of us, and you need all the extra strength and rest you can get.
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