My father is from Poland, and Polish tradition dictates that the Christmas Eve feast (called “Wigelia”) is a much bigger deal than Christmas itself. I remember, as a kid, going to the house of one of my Dad’s Polish friends and being forced to sit through an hours-long dinner as the adults celebrated with toasts and chatter – to me, totally boring. When I still believed in Santa, I would also get upset with my parents for not making sure that I was home at midnight – because wouldn’t Santa skip our house if I wasn’t in bed and asleep when he came? Unlike my friends, who went to bed early so that Christmas morning would come faster, I got stuck staying up till the wee hours (or sleeping in the guest bedroom until the party ended) and then heading home exhausted. We still put the cookies and milk out on the mantel for Santa (and some carrots for the reindeer, animal-lover I was), but it just wasn’t the same.
Saturday night, I had another totally non-traditional Christmas Eve… but this time, I was the grownup who stayed up all night celebrating with friends. My friend Susan is an amazing chef (she won the Cookie Takedown last week with her chocolate salted caramallard cookies), and she put forth a proposal that I just couldn’t turn down: a traditional Jewish Christmas! Opening her home to her friends and their families and friends (so generous!), she cooked a Chinese feast from scratch, and we hung out and watched The Maccabeats Jewish a cappella group. As an extra bonus, Susan’s husband Braden is a fellow craft beer lover, and he pulled out some really rare and incredible stuff for us to try. My friend Meg and I also brought some yummy bottles ourselves, and I ended up getting to try nine different beers – hooray for sharing with friends and therefore being able to go for small servings! One December goal I hadn’t written about on the blog yet is to get to 200 unique beers tried by the end of the year (as recorded on Untappd), and thanks to Christmas Eve, I’m now only two away! Totally achievable.
Sunday morning dawned bright and early, and my Christmas festivities kicked off with something else that has become de rigeur for me, but probably isn’t in most people’s plans for Christmas morning: with a race! Ever since the Holiday Marathon series started with last year’s Thanksgiving Marathon, my mom and I have gotten used to heading up to the Bronx whenever it’s a holiday. This time, though, there had been a snafu with getting a permit for Van Cortlandt Park, so the race was being held at Tibbets Brook Park. I found the new venue to be much prettier and a lot easier than VCP (the “trail” was paved, so I didn’t have to worry about tripping and falling), but I thought it was kind of crappy that a “New York” race would be held somewhere without access to public transportation, so no real New Yorkers could get to it. (That said, I bumped into the amazing Lam after the race, and he told me he had run the 15 miles to get there from his apartment! Now that’s dedication). I was really grateful that my mom was willing to drive me up there and hang out while I ran – only 6.7 miles instead of the full or half marathons, and I was speedier than usual (8:15 average pace), but still! I thought of getting the opportunity to run the race as a pretty nice Christmas present all on its own 🙂
We spent the rest of the day back at my apartment putting the tree up (oops, better late than never), feasting on a traditional pig roast, opening presents, and then cuddling up in bed to fall asleep watching “The Help.” Not terribly exciting to report back on, but I thoroughly enjoyed the day and was thrilled to spend such a peaceful Christmas getting quality time in with my mom.
Today, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the morning, and then my mom took me to Ikea to pick out one of my Christmas presents: chairs for my (foldable New York style) dining room table and a new mirror for my bedroom! It may be only a week away from the New Year, but it is time for me to get cracking on my resolution to clean out and redecorate my apartment. Luckily I have a week of vacation in which to do it 🙂
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone!