A few days ago, Gettysburg Area Middle School served up Christmas dinner. Never mind that it’s a public school, and they should be serving a holiday dinner. We don’t wage war against Christmas here. We have a Christmas tree in the town’s center square. And a nativity scene a dozen yards away. The GAMS band and orchestra perform a Christmas concert, and the kids watched a Christmas Carol in school last week. Calling the holiday meal “Christmas Dinner” is just one more tiny infraction that screams “Christian Community” in the face of all the others. I always wonder what the Jewish kids think.
Christmas dinner a la GAMS was sliced turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy. Identical in every way to the last holiday meal they served, Thanksgiving.
Eli and I discussed his lunch-time menu that evening. Many Americans eat roast turkey twice a year, one month apart, and then go turkey-free for eleven months (I don’t include the sliced variety from the deli counter, because I don’t believe that is really turkey). My family doesn’t partake in the twice annual turkey tradition. Once is always more than enough.
We don’t host Thanksgiving. It would be a crisis if we did. Susan isn’t going to cook a turkey. None of us really like it. We would serve homemade pasta or pizza, or venison, or almost any other traditional seventeenth-century Plymouth entrée. It’s little a known fact that the American Indians brought pizza to the first Thanksgiving. We typically eat Thanksgiving dinner with Susan’s mother or brother. They each serve the big turkey. But for me, Thanksgiving is principally about cranberry and stuffing mixed together.
By design, we’re on our own for Christmas day. We believe that presents around the tree is an intimate event that shouldn’t be shared with extended family. So, come dinner time, a turkey is never involved. Last year we made perogies, and the year before that, homemade pasta. I celebrate a made-up holiday—Solstice Plus Four (it’s Solstice, but four days late so it can coincide with Christmas). One of the traditions of S+4 is that everyone shares in the cooking. Pasta and pizza work well for this, and perogies were perfect—we each made our own.
This year it’s grilled chicken kabobs. Middle-eastern marinade, tzatziki sauce, stove-top fried flatbread. It’s our best approximation of the food from Kabob Palace in Crystal City Virginia, an Afghan restaurant that has hovered near the top of my favorite list for decades. It’s truly a family affair. Susan will prep the dough and the marinade; Eli makes a mean tzatziki; Sophie cooks the bread; and I’ll grill. I’m hoping that our Afghani Christmas dinner menu causes President Elect Trump just a little bit of heartburn.
After my conversation with Eli, I ran a small facebook poll on Christmas dinner menus. I call it small because only a handful of people responded. What did I learn? Either Americans really like their holiday turkey meal, or we’re just too uncreative to come up with something different from Thanksgiving. I got three turkeys, a couple of hams, a pair of steaks and one “I haven’t thought about it.” But all of the menus seemed to have Thanksgiving-esque sides. Potatoes, brussels sprouts, stuffing, corn, etc. We were the only ones going ethnic.
Regardless of what you plan to eat, please take a minute to think about the millions of families, all around the world, representing dozens of unique religious beliefs, who don’t have enough food or a warm place to sit and eat today.
Be the Light—Jeff