... A rewarding part of the holiday season
I am often asked by people if during the holiday season I display a Chanukah bush in my home. My answer is always negative and I do not know any Jewish people who do. Christmas is Christmas and Chanukah is Chanukah and the two holidays have nothing to do with each other except that they are celebrated around the same time of the year. We light candles for the eight nights of the holiday and recite blessing as we light them and that is the only Chanukah ritual observed in my home. That does not mean that I am not cognizant that the holiday season is an important part of American life and it is certainly an enjoyable part of my life.
For me Christmas begins with creating Christmas cards using my computer to send to a number of veteran friends. It is a great way for me to inform them that I am still alive and active and that I do think about the relationships we established during our service in WW II. I write short notes inside the cards informing them of what I have been doing and what my plans are for the coming year.
In previous years I was an important member of a group from my temple that cooked and served Christmas dinner to members of the Melrose community who would otherwise have been alone on Christmas Day. It was my job to do all the shopping and then making sure that the provisions were off loaded in the kitchen of the First Baptist Church. The facilities in our temple are not adequate so the pastor of the church has made it available to us. That is just one example of the spirit of brotherhood that exists in our city. I also used to do some of the cooking.
At the age of 79 I no longer do any of that but I am available for advice to the younger temple members who have taken over the duties. They have added their own ideas and expertise to make each year's dinner even more pleasurable than the previous year's. I do, however, attend the dinner site during preparation and while it is being served. I do that to greet friends and to make newcomers feel welcome.
The high point of the day for me is the Open House at the Smolens residence. Many years ago, Edith, my wife, thought it would be fun to have a place for our Jewish friends to spend Christmas Day. When we first started most of us were part of the work force. Christmas Day was a non-work day so it made sense to us to get together with friends and what better place to do that than in our own home.
In addition to good conversation and conviviality beverages and food are provided. Year after year people look forward to my sweet and sour meat balls and Edith's chicken wings. Of course there are other foods but those delicacies take the most effort to prepare and are the most appreciated. As time went on we told our non-Jewish friends about the festivities and many have decided to drop in after their own family get-togethers.
One year a young man from Indonesia whom I had befriended came to our open house. Nial is a very talented Jazz piano player and was in Boston to study at Berklee College. He brought along a guitar playing friend, David, and they entertained us by rendering wonderful versions of standard tunes from the American song book. They had an encyclopedic knowledge of every song requested and played those songs like our friends had never heard them played before.
In recent years our friend, Kathy St. George has stopped by at night with her fiance after most of our guests have gone home and that triggered another round of stories and mirth. Kathy is a wonderfully talented actress and singer who has appeared in many local productions and national touring companies always to very favorable reviews.
And so on and on it goes far into the night. We have so much fun and so many fond memories that we are determined to continue holding the open house as long as we are able to do so.