NOT QUITE SO FESTIVE

Well, what can we say about the Festive Season this year?

Not quite what any of us imagined, but still we soldier on doing what we normally do, fretting about meals, who we have forgotten to buy a present for and trying to decide who we can see and spend time with and who not. Some might take the view this is one of the ‘positives’. Not TheEye – she loves them all and will miss the fun, the noise and games.

But that’s the way it’s going to be and very lonely for so many divided by distance, particularly.

Menorah outside the gates of the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem

Even Santa’s climbing up the wall this year. Come down Santa, it’s not that bad.

 

CHANUKAH

Chanukah comes but once a year and when it does it brings 8 days of overeating and celebration

Chanukah lights, chocolate coins and the traditional game of spin the ‘dreidel’.

Chanukah and Christmas usually (more or less) overlap and TheEye celebrates both with equal enthusiasm. Presents, food,  goodwill to all – what’s not to like?

They don’t always fall on the same day. The Jewish calendar changes every year. The Festival of Lights commemorates the miracle of the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem following the successful revolt of Judas Maccabeus against the Greeks. With only a small supply of lamp oil, barely sufficient for a few hours, the lamp miraculously lasted for eight days. Candles in Menorahs, the ceremonial light, are lit for each of the eight celebratory days. In ‘the good old days’ (last year) people held parties, exchanged presents each day, played special games such as spinning the dreidel and best of all ate the traditional food, all fattening. Mostly fried, there’s nothing as delicious as latkes, but then there are the other traditional Hanukah delicacies such as doughnuts and rugelach. In fact, anything either doused in a honey syrup or covered in powdered sugar will pass the Hannukah gastronomy test.

Sephardi communities have their own versions – such as sufganiyot (round jelly donuts covered in powdered sugar) and Bumuelo which, according to the Ladino translations of the  Bible, can be traced back to the story of the Manna in the desert – these are fried pieces of dough drizzled in honey. TheEye isn’t quite sure how anyone could be frying anything in the desert, but she will take their word for it.

Delicious potato latkes for Hanukah served on a plate with sour cream and applesauce.

The place to enjoy the best traditional food in New York is Russ & Daughters situated in the Lower East Side. New Yorkers come from near and far to buy the best smoked salmon cut so thinly you might be worried someone’s finger might be included. Whilst on the subject of New York’s famous ‘ old-style restaurants’ a special mention must be included for Sammy’s Roumanian, off Delancey Street. Sammy’s food will stay with you long after you go home – indigestion on an epic scale you will probably think the end has come.  A  NY Times restaurant critic called it ‘the most wonderful terrible restaurant in the world‘ and customers flock from all over the world to indulge in culinary nostalgia. Rowdy singing and impromptu dancing, strangers talk to strangers ending up friends. Not for the sensitive palate.

Good enough to eat. The menu at Russ & Daughters

A happy diner at Russ & Daughters

Could this be the real ‘Secret Santa’?

The custom of eating foods fried in oil for eight days is packing in a huge amount of calories and then moving swiftly on to Christmas fare – the odd mince pie (who has ever had the ‘odd’ mince pie), Christmas pudding, a little Vacherin here and a smidgeon of Stilton plus many glasses of whatever your favourite tipple might be.

So the combined result of these celebrations is very fat, grumpy people.

Meanwhile, pass the Quality Street and all will be forgotten and be sure you haven’t eaten all the ones in purple wrappers.

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There might be fewer pantomimes and Christmas plays this year, but the Nutcracker goes on in theatres up and down the country and TheEye was fortunate to attend the Dress Rehearsal at the ROH which has been cleverly re-staged for  Covid Times – fewer dancers, a smaller orchestra and shorter in length. It lost none of its magic and, like so many things in this weird and troubled year, the creativity is outstanding. People really think out of their boxes, remain undaunted and adapt brilliantly. The dancers looked so elated and radiant to be on the stage and the audience, in spite of having to wear masks throughout the performance, no champagne interval and rather regimented seating and leaving arrangements, were equally thrilled to be there. Everyone is happy to be reminded of the familiar things they love. The next treat (hopefully) will be The Bridge Theatre‘s production of A Christmas Carol with one of TheEye‘s favourite actors, Simon Russel Beale. Only three actors playing many parts. Something that worked so well in his memorable performance at the N.T. of The Lehman Trilogy.

Simon Russell Beale Patsy Ferran and Eben Figueiredo Will Star in a Christmas Carol

But hang on! Before we all rejoice, London has now been demoted to Tier 3, so no nights at the theatre, for the time being, no more dinners in restaurants, coffees in cafes, whether inside or out and pubs closed, at  traditionally the time of year when people let their hair down and have fun. No canoodling behind the office printing machine, no more overdoing it on the mulled wine, just no more anything but a lot of hope that the anticipated vaccine will be readily available and this horrible pandemic will be defeated.

‘theeye’ has the last word: OPTIMISM

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

2021 HAS TO BE BETTER ON THAT, WE ALL AGREE.

11 Comments

  1. All the background to Chanukah so interesting, thanks Jan & also for the comprehensive tips of what we COULD do this festive season. HAPPY NEW YEAR & LOOKING FORWARD TO THE 2021 POSTS. X

  2. I just loved this Jan

    Optimism it has to be and I love your energy and determination to overcome life vicissitudes and challenges. Thank you. A seriously happy making blog

    • No point moaning about what we can’t do anything about and it helps to look ‘on the bright side of life’ even if there isn’t one.
      Maybe a walk some day soon?
      we are cancelling too by the way.

  3. Hi Jan – Wonderfully entertaining piece. Thank you – we definitely need all the laughs we can get. We took a couple of granddaughters to Katz’s deli in NY a few years ago where the huge matzoh ball in the soup hardly left any room for the soup and pea soup so thick that spoon actually stood up in it. As for the massive salt beef sandwiches containing about a pound of meat – crazy!
    Have a happy And healthy Christmas and a Happy New Year. Xxx

  4. Dear Jan, I love that you referenced Sammy’s Roumainian: the cheesy band, a bowl of pickles swimming in garlic-infested waters, the slab of meat so large it hangs off the plate.
    Happy holidays be it Christmas or Hannukah and to the brave new year.

    • Lovely to hear from you Victoria, I thought I was going to die after dinner at Sammy’s and I think the bowl of garlic infested pickles didn’t help.
      Love to you and Joe and your family for a much happier, healthier and saner 2021. One day we ‘will meet again – don’t know where, don’t know when….”
      But it will be great when we do.

  5. Jan, another wonderful Eye!
    Let’s hope 2021 brings a better year.
    Love to you and all the family.
    Remembering those Christmas,s in Scotland!

    • How could I forget those happy days and all the fun we had arguing around our large communal table. Kate and Godfrey going hammer and tongue.
      Would we ever have believed the mire we are all in now? I think not.
      I pray 2021 is a whole lot better, happier and healthier.
      Love to you all and stay safe and sane.
      x

  6. Dear Janice,
    I wish you and your family and all your friends happy holidays and a healthy and fun New Year, filled with travels and adventures all over the planet. Just keep writing about them when you return! And I hope I will see you at the pool one day soon.
    All my best,
    Carola

  7. Enjoyable take on this year’s holiday season. We hope to visit these places and events next year. Happy holidays. Lol,
    Fortuna

  8. Hurrah for
    Jan – you let the light in.
    Happy Chanukah happy Xmas and a Happy new year

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