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Filmic Friday: Manna, Movies, and Moo Shu – the perfect Jewish Christmas

Sometimes being a Jew on Christmas really stinks.

Like when you hang a stocking on December 24 only to find it missing by the time you awake the following morning (I was convinced that Santa took it – turns out it was my little sister).

Or when the Target in Hadley, Massachusetts offers only an endcap of Chanukah-ness amidst aisles and aisles of Christmas decorations so you have to resort to building a menorah out of Legos (which turn out to be highly flammable!).

But then there’s the other side of Jewish Christmas – the side that has you sitting in a movie theater with your family for the 15th year in a row, eating milkduds and exchanging whispered commentary with your mom and sister while your dad sleeps in the seat next to you.

And that side is hard to beat.

My family established a tried-and-true Christmas routine when I was eight- or nine-years-old: we spent the morning volunteering at MANNA, a Philly-local organization that provides meals for home-bound AIDS patients.  From there, we headed across town to one of the three Ritz movies theaters within a half-mile radius of each other, picnic in hand, for a matinee showing of Father of the Bride, or Ali, or Shakespeare in Love, or A Beautiful Mind.  Then, we would pick up take-out Chinese or Vietnamese or Indian or Thai for dinner, and head home for a quiet evening (mom – I have memories of Sound of Music and Trivial Pursuit… am I making that up?).

Ask any American Jew what they do on Christmas and you’re likely to find some variation on this theme.  When there aren’t presents to open or services to attend or ham to eat or family to visit or… (what else do people do on Christmas?), what better way to occupy your time than an afternoon at the movies?

In recent years, my family’s Jewish Christmas has begun to change.

When Brent and I got together, we started heading to New England to spend the holidays with his family.  All my life I had been dreaming of a “real” Christmas, but I have to admit, that first year that I missed MANNA and movies, I called my parents the evening of December 25th and held back tears as they told me about their day.

In my absence, my parents and sister carried on the tradition.  But this year, more changes are in store.  MANNA, once a small grassroots operation, has blossomed into a well-oiled machine, so efficient and well-funded that they are able to pack and deliver all their Christmas meals on Christmas Eve.  Tomorrow, they’re closing up shop so that the regular staff can spend the day their their families.  Instead, my parents and sister are going to a family friend’s house for a lox-and-bagels brunch.

Still, one crucial part of the tradition remains.  Tomorrow afternoon, all five of us (in separate states and, this year, in separate time zones, as Brent and I are spending Christmas in New Orleans and celebrating with his family next week) will be heading to the movies.

What are your plans for Christmas Day?  Do they involve True Grit, Little Fockers, or The Fighter?

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One response to “Filmic Friday: Manna, Movies, and Moo Shu – the perfect Jewish Christmas

  1. kari w/ jogging with fiction December 24, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    My family celebrates Christmas, but we always used to go to the movies the day after! Your tradition sounds great.

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