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Cultural Misunderstanding

Sunday, 26 December 2010

So last week, a good friend invited us to her home for Christmas dinner. We were really touched by the invitation to share in the holiday observance with our friend and her family. However, since Christmas began on Friday evening, we reluctantly sent our regrets, explaining that we’d be with family for Shabbat dinner.

Only to discover that when my friend said “Christmas,” she actually meant Christmas day. PC and I had assumed that the big dinner would be on erev Christmas.

Silly us.

Net-net: A very enjoyable après-dinner evening filled with good conversation, fabulous music, and delicious pie.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. K.C. permalink
    Sunday, 26 December 2010 9:03 pm

    I joined my family at my brothers house on (Friday) Christmas eve, spent the night and watched the lil ones open gifts. I love them but I was a lil bit uncomfortable. They ask me questions I can’t answer.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 27 December 2010 10:08 pm

      Well, we can help you with that. The most important thing is that you were with family, helping them celebrate their holiday. An aunt is an important person in the lives of nephews and I’m sure they loved having you there.

  2. Valerie permalink
    Sunday, 26 December 2010 9:11 pm


    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 27 December 2010 10:09 pm

      Thanks, Valerie. Like so many experiences in my life, they are much funnier — after the fact!

  3. Sunday, 26 December 2010 10:05 pm

    I had a similar experience one year, in which I signed up to bring food to a shelter for x-mas dinner and brought in on the 24th. Xmas dinner, apparently, is not on Erev Xmas. They didn’t have room for 3 pans of baked ziti in their refrigerator, so I had to take them back home and find someone else to deliver it the next day, when I was going out of town.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 27 December 2010 10:10 pm


      (Sorta glad to see that we’re not the only ones, though.)

  4. Monday, 27 December 2010 8:48 am

    The overlap of Christmas and Shabbat this year caught me completely by surprise. Why did it matter?

    I’m the only Jew in my department (and possibly the only observant Jew in the company – I’m still new so I may not have met everyone yet). Being in IT, we have an “on call” rotation where each lucky soul gets to take any issues that come up overnight, on the weekends, etc.

    I figured it would be a friendly gesture to cover the weeks of Christmas, Easter, etc.

    Which is why I found myself in the unenviable position of asking for someone to cover for ME on Christmas Eve and Day.

    Lucky for me one of my coworkers is A) a workaholic and B) wanted any excuse to be able to duck away from his in-laws.

    Still, I’ve offered to cover 3 of his Sundays in exchange. I figure it’s a fair trade.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 27 December 2010 10:12 pm

      Completely fair.

      When I worked in a civilian job, I too would offer to work on erev Christmas and Christmas. Figured that would enable a non-Jew to stay home and celebrate.

      Funny story. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Former Reform Jew permalink
    Monday, 27 December 2010 10:50 am

    I remember attending Christmas dinners. My best friend and I practically lived at each other’s houses during our youth. As a result, he’s one of the best non-Jewish dreidel players you’ll ever meet, and I know a few (too many?) church hymns.

    Even before I kept kosher, I remember feeling uncomfortable when the main dish would grace the center of the Christmas dinner table.

    For those who haven’t had the experience – the traditional main course of an American Christmas dinner is a big, fat, perfectly cooked, honey glazed HAM.

    Of course back then, I ate everything else that they served me in their house; so they must have thought it odd that I suddenly lost my appetite when the Pièce de résistance was served.

    I guess it was an early sign of emerging spiritual awareness. :o)

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 27 December 2010 10:29 pm

      Or maybe it was just the confluence of it all…

  6. Monday, 27 December 2010 12:46 pm

    I love that you brought your family to participate in the dinner! (Especially once you figured out the right day). How often do we pat ourselves on the back for inviting non-Jews to participate in seders and other Jewish holidays, but we’re not so eager to sample the holidays of the other culture. As for people who say they feel “uncomfortable,” (and I’m not referring your commenters here . . . it’s something I hear Jews say often). I don’t really get that. You don’t have to eat the ham! I can’t imagine a non-Jew feeling “uncomfortable” when the gefitle fish comes around. They might not want to eat it, or they may think “ick.” But “uncomfortable?” I know it’s just semantics . . . but I think we’re too dang sensitive and self-focused sometimes.

    And, I’m totally off topic. Frume Sarah- when are you coming to Minneapolis so we can have coffee and I don’t have to clutter up your blog?!?!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 27 December 2010 10:32 pm

      For the record, none of us went to the dinner. And, in the end, I was the only one who made it for pie, wine, and merriment.

      While I would like to say that I would be fine with a ham on the table, I think I would feel a bit awkward with it just sitting there on the table. Not to mention the treify smell.

      I must admit that I don’t see a trip to Minneapolis in my near future — thought I would SO love to grab coffee and gab with you for eons. Any trips to the Left Coast on your horizon?

      • Monday, 27 December 2010 11:45 pm

        If “on the horizon” means 10 years, then YES! 😉 On a serious note, I’m working on a post for TCJewfolk I’d love to discuss. I’ll send an email soon with the details.

      • Frume Sarah permalink*
        Tuesday, 28 December 2010 4:47 pm

        That is certainly not anytime soon.

        My interest has certainly been piqued.

  7. Monday, 27 December 2010 2:51 pm

    but I think we’re too dang sensitive and self-focused sometimes.

    Sometimes that is true, but I’ll never forget being told that Yom Kippur wasn’t a real holiday. It was my freshman year of college and my English professor said that she wouldn’t allow me to make up an exam because I had made up the holiday.

    It was sort of surreal. I had some funny experiences before, but this was Los Angeles so I never expected to encounter someone who said something like that. Being the wise young man I was I told her that Christmas was a fake holiday that someone had made up.

    And things just got better.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Monday, 27 December 2010 11:03 pm

      Oh dear…

    • Former Reform Jew permalink
      Tuesday, 28 December 2010 12:06 pm

      Jack – you reminded me of the following anecdote.

      A friend of mine once had to bring a rabbi’s note to a professor in college.

      The note explained to the professor that Shavuot is a real Jewish holiday; and that my friend had not “made it up on the spot” as he had been accused of doing, when requesting an alternate final exam date.

      P.S. – The Professor was Jewish.

      • Frume Sarah permalink*
        Thursday, 30 December 2010 10:06 pm

        As my dear friend, R. Liz Wood, says, “Oy to the Voy!”

  8. Monday, 27 December 2010 11:44 pm

    Oh Jack. Speechless.

  9. Saturday, 1 January 2011 4:57 am

    There are actually some countries where the main celebration is on erev Christmas. It always depends on where you are 🙂

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