A Jew(ish) Christmas: Christmas as a Christian kid in Jewish town.
Cherry Hill, New Jersey is a town known for its diners, it’s mall and its synagogues. As one of the few Christians in town, it is not odd that I adopted some of the traditions my Jewish classmates and neighbors I grew up with. Typically (when Hanukkah doesn’t fall on Dec. 25), my Jewish friends spend their Christmases at local movie theaters, watching movies released the week (or day) of Christmas while eating food from local Asian restaurants.
This year, the movies to watch include Cats, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Just Mercy, and more. As my Mom and I have settled into a more lowkey style of Christmas, we will be spending this upcoming Dec. 25 watching the new movie, Little Women, a film adaption of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel.
When it comes to food, most of the non-Christian families eat Chinese food after their movies. Before we hit the local AMC theater, my Mom and I get brunch with the family (avoiding the ever awkward Christmas dinner), and then we grab some coffee from a local roaster. Saxby’s, a rising coffee chain based in Philadelphia, seems to be the shop we’re ending up at this year.
Finally, my Mom and I have a unique tradition that is saved for the end of the day. Every Christmas night, we bake a cake and blow out birthday candles. Why do we make a birthday cake on Christmas? Well, as a kid, I referred to Christmas as “Jesus’ Birthday”, and what is our Lord and Savior’s birthday without cake?
My family Christmas traditions are all over the place and influenced by different things in my childhood. At the end of the day, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ with those you love in ways that you love. In my family, that means movies, coffee, and birthday cake.
by: Lillie Allen
A Sunshine State Christmas: Inside how a Floridian spends their holidays.
Palm trees, golf carts and shredded ice sounds like Christmas, right? Well, this might not sound like the average Christmas, but it is the absolute norm for Floridians. I was raised in Bradenton, Florida, and I did not realize how abnormal my Christmas celebrations were before coming to Eastern.
Every year, I go to the Golf Cart Parade. I’m telling the truth. Over 100 golf cart owners gather and decorate their carts (pretty much considered cars in Florida) for the parade. These golf carts roam through multiple neighborhoods. There are not any prizes, but the viewers are gifted with elderly men throwing lollipops at them and saying, “ho-ho-ho.” That is a gift within itself.
On top of the gold cart parade, I think that Floridians are known for decorating palm trees. We still have the average pine tree in our homes decorated, but we also decorate the palm trees in our yards. We put lights up their trunks and also put giant ornaments on their leaves. I can see how the ornaments are specifically for Christmas, but Floridans usually keep the lights on their palm trees. I mean, it is too hard to put them up and down each year, so we tend to keep this part of our state festive year round.
Also, I now know why it is weird for Floridians to have shaved ice sprinkled off of roof tops to mimic snow. This happens everywhere. It usually happened at my high school. We love snow. I mean, ice. Also, is it weird that we usually go to the beach during the holidays? Okay, I guess this is weird, but when you have fantastic beaches, why not take advantage of them?
I can go on forever and a day about the things that I have realized are a tad abnormal about festivities since coming to Eastern, but I cannot say that I am ashamed of them. Remembering these weird things allow me to feel closer to my home. When I feel real snow up north, I am reminded of the fake snow that used to fall from my school’s roof. When I see reefs and fake trees decorated throughout Wayne, I am reminded of my signature palm trees. However, I am also grateful for these new Christmas experiences. They make me feel even more appreciative of my Florida upbringing.
by: Kelsey Fiander-Carr
Mickey D’s On Christmas: How one tradition stayed constant from one country to another.
Growing up in the Philippines was an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. Most of the time, I was perfectly content living there. In fairness, it was all I knew. But, every year around December, it suddenly became much harder to live there, and not just for me individually, but for my entire family.
Christmas is a time to be around family and celebrating long-held traditions, but that can be hard to do when you live on the other side of the world from most of your family. My mother especially would have a hard time as she is incredibly close to her family, and her side of my family has many annual traditions that we always had to miss living several countries away.
Even Christmas dinner became unmanageable as the overbearing heat made it difficult to want to cook an in-depth large meal. However, we still wanted a reminder of our American life, so one year, my father decided to treat us all to McDonald’s for dinner on Christmas; the most American restaurant around us at the time. This quickly became a loved tradition in my family.
It was nice because we had a meal that we loved, without the prep work or tear down that eternally stressed my mother out. It became such a loved tradition that when my family moved back to the U.S. in 2012, we decided to continue it. Obviously, being back around our extended family we don’t go for dinner (we have ‘proper’ Christmas dinner now). Instead, we get up early and go for breakfast. Thus, we don’t tear into our gifts until after our yearly visit to our local McDonalds.
by: Cait Wooten