Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Rebel Jesus...

And on this day, I have to post the lyrics to my favorite Christmas song, The Rebel Jesus. It's a little obvious in places, but it captures my feelings, on the holiday but especially the man, entirely. If you can get your hands on it, please get the Martha Wainwright version on the McGarrigle Christmas CD. I had heard the Jackson Brown version before as we also have the Chiefton's CD on which this originally appeared, but Martha Wainwright recorded the version which really is moving. Enjoy your Christmas!

The streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants' windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tables
Giving thanks for all God's graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

They call him by the "Prince of Peace"
And they call him by "The Saviour"
And they pray to him upon the sea
And in every bold endeavor
As they fill his churches with their pride and gold
And their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worshipped in
From a temple to a robber's den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

But pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I've no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah!

Last night we had our Hanukkah party, which was every bit the bacchanalian affair, minus, uh, the sex and drugs. [There was homemade lemon liquor, and that's sort of bacchanalian, right?] We had my two wacky, wonderful friends of "Germanically-oppressed" heritage (and not one of us is from the same background, which shows you just how busy those Germans were in the early-to-mid twentieth century with the business of oppression), and their mutual families, as well as my mother and our son's honorary uncle. It was such a warm and festive night. The kids went wilding, of course, and we had our fill of latkes, mock chopped liver, three different salads, stuffed mushrooms, spicy olives, eggplant caviar, donuts, cream cheeze blintzes, sugar cookies: what a feast! John peeled and grated ten pounds of potatoes and chopped three pounds of onions - with nary a complaint, as the man is decent and good, and, I suspect, also paying penance for his German heritage - and I did most of the other food-related jobs.

During the Jewish holidays, I always get very sentimental, missing my grandparents. My grandparents were not religious, but they did celebrate the holidays in that way that secular Jews do: with food. As my kitchen filled with that heady scent of lots of hot oil, something uncommon here as I seldom fry, I was transported back to my grandmother, and she to me. Food has a deeply emotional pull to us, as we know. I remember a party I was at once years ago, I must have been sixteen or so. My grandmother had brought rugelach, an Ashkenazi Jewish pastry wrapped in a crescent around a sweet filling, usually preserves, dried fruit and nuts, and baked. A middle-aged man my grandmother had just met, a friend of a friend, closed his eyes in pleasure as he took a bite, sighing: he too was transported to his own childhood, to his mother's or grandmother's rugelach, to warm memories and comfort. Swept away, he impulsively leaned over and kissed my grandmother on the cheek, causing her to giggle. She was both a nurturer - she loved to nourish people, which is probably the root of my love of cooking for others - and a shameless, though always innocent, flirt. From Proust's infamous madeleine to M.F.K. Fisher's ever-elegant prose, musings on food and its profound affect on the human spirit has been explored with depth but it is never quite enough.

Once again, I feel grateful to be able to revisit these old foods while still maintaining my commitment to veganism. The latkes I made were not missing anything by their absence of chicken ovum: in fact, they were more meaningful because I could pay tribute to my grandmother and, oh, yeah, the Maccabees, on my terms, in my unique way. Plus, they rocked! I also feel grateful to have such wonderful, supportive and passionate friends with big appetites, who showed up, variously, wearing big ol' sequins and bearing luscious European dark chocolates. (I just ran off and gobbled the last two squares.) I am blessed.

Shalom, everyone.

PS - Can I just tell a little cute thing about my son? Of course I can. It's my blog. Anyway, he creates holidays for our cat. Hanukkah has been re-imagined as "Hanu-meow" for Clover, during which time she celebrates the Miracle, which was the day that she beat our dog in a race. Never mind that she is a nine-month-old kitten and he's a thirteen-year-old, partially stroke-addled basset hound - this is apparently miraculous enough to celebrate and who am I to begrudge a little celebration? Happy Hanu-meow, Clover...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

So this is Christmas...

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity around here, trying to finish up one intense self-imposed deadline (I would say "Mission accomplished!" but that term is pretty much meaningless and tainted with ugliness post-W) and contending with all the busyness of the season. There is so much to do around here this time of year, not just buying gifts, decorating and whatnot. There are Santa-commandeered 'L' trains to catch, Tchaikovsky-scored ballets to view, cranberries to string and pine cones to spread with peanut butter and roll in bird seed, and on and on. Mind you, we haven't done any of those things yet, but it still takes up my time thinking about all the festive and enriching activities that we are currently missing. So I am actively absorbing my time in a state of neurosis, which is perhaps the purest expression of my holiday spirit seeing as I am of the Semitic, desert-wandering orientation.

For what it's worth, I'm not all that impressed with Hanukkah either, which kind of seems like an also-ran this time of year, though we do celebrate and will be having a little vegan latke-devouring party - maybe we should make it into a competition? - at our house Tuesday night with a couple of my shiksa friends and their families, my mother and Justice's adopted uncle. I'm looking forward to this very much. It has always struck me as comical and perhaps very telling that at the foundation of nearly every (or is it every?) Jewish holiday story is the hard kernel of oppression. Even Purim, the supposedly fun Jewish holiday, has the threat of the annihilation of the tribe at it's core. I think that in my heart of hearts, I have a distinctly Jewish soul, so I cannot help but find this to be very funny. (My friend - a fellow Jewess - and I were belting out "Sunrise, Sunset" together a few weeks ago and after we sang, "One season following another, laden with happiness and tears...," I pointed out that this is the summation of the Jewish character in two neat lines. Of course we laughed and laughed.) Anyway, some Chanukkah (yes, I'm spelling it different this time, and it occurs to me that maybe there are so many different spelling of the holiday because Jews are an argumentative, contrarian people) ideas: we will dance the Hora, which my son picked up at his cousin's Bat Mitzvah last weekend, and, oh, I think this is a good one: I want to go Hannukah caroling. That's right! Our neighbors to the south, Ed and his adult son, will be hearing about dreidels fashioned out of clay, and our neighbor to the north, a lively Jamaican woman, will be treated to "Chiri Bim." Because that's the sort of neighbor I am. To me, it's just hilarious, this subverting of Christmas traditions, and there's this added layer of, "Wow, maybe people will see how invasive and arrogant it feels when it seems like the rest of the world assumes you are a religion that you are not." Welcome to the Jewish experience!

Anyway, latkes, salads, Star of David-shaped cookies, perhaps even an attempt at vegan blintzes, something I have not had since I was a teen. Sounds good, right? Hopefully once Chrismakkah is over, I'll be able to post more vegan feminist-y screeds. For now, though, the bed is beckoning me.

Shalom, everyone.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Update schmupdate...

Well, I've been swept up in all the holiday madness and a close deadline so I've been unable to update. I will as soon as a) I have more time, and b) I have something interesting to report. Hopefully that will be sooner than later.

Shalom, everyone.