01 December 2010

Light, Life, and Love

Dang, the holidays come faster every year! It’s hard enough seeing Christmas decorations in the stores before Halloween is even over. But this year even Hannukah comes early. It starts tonight: December first. Have you noticed how everything feels speeded up?

Thank goodness we don’t have to fall lock-step into holiday madness. One of the biggest secrets to a happy holiday season is staying conscious – making choices based on our values instead of automatically doing what we think is expected of us.

Of course, this sounds easier than it is. Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas and haven’t done so for 25 years, I feel myself drawn – nay, sucked in – to the consumerist vortex. I drive past the Christmas tree lots and think “Oh, I’d like to buy a tree!” Never mind that I have nowhere to put it and nothing to decorate it with; never mind what the cats would do to it if I did have decorations; never mind that I’m Jewish – I see the trees and start wanting one. The same dynamic occurs with shopping for presents. It’s a challenge to avoid being consumed by consumerism!

And yet, if I am to remain true to my values, I must resist spending money I don’t readily have on things that my loved ones don’t really need. For me, this time of year is about the solstice, about feasting our way through the dark nights and celebrating the return of light and life (which, some propose, is also what Hannukah and Christmas are about). It is about illuminating the love we share.

I realize that many of my readers do celebrate Christmas, though, that checking out of the holiday altogether isn’t a desired option. For those of you who love Christmas, I encourage you to ask yourself what’s most important to you and then focus on that.

May this be your most joyous holiday yet!


Claire Josefine

Tip of the Month

Think about past years – what went well during the holidays, what didn't, and what you'd change if you could. Then make a list of what you most want to do this season. Sit down with your calendar and write it in. Be realistic, and don’t overextend yourself. The consequences are rarely worth it!

Also, start a holiday binder. Put a calendar in it and note what you did, when. Include lists for holiday card recipients, gifts given (and to whom), invitations sent, and menus. You may want to keep your holiday recipes here, too, as well as any notes for next year.

Quotes of the Month

There is no use pretending that the sun is always bright; there is no use pretending that the moon is always full. It is only by recognizing the season of darkness that we know it is time to light the candles, to sow a seed of light that can sprout and spring forth, later in the year.
– Arthur Waskow Seasons of Our Joy

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
– Wendell Berry

The universe is a constant explosion of Light. Every moment of kindness, compassion and forgiveness is a new star that's being born.
– Marianne Williamson

Recipe of the Month

Grandma said, with a thick Yiddish accent, “You grate some potatoes and onion, add egg and flour and salt – try not to grate your knuckles – and fry it up in oil.” That’s pretty much it, although some folks prefer to use matzo meal to flour and, of course, Grandma’s recipe is a bit shy on measurements. So here’s the recipe from Sara Kasdan’s Love and Knishes (parenthetical comments are mine):

2 cups grated potatoes, drained (I use Russets)
1 yellow onion, grated
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 rounded Tablespoon flour or matzo meal
pinch of baking powder (I never used this, but it would give a nice bit of leavening)

Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Drop pancake mixture by the Tablespoonful onto a hot skillet generously greased with butter or shortening. (I use canola oil.) If you like thin, crisp pancakes, flatten with the back of a spoon. Fry on both sides until brown. Serve piping hot with sour cream, or with applesauce.

And then she adds a note: “This recipe should serve 4 to 6 people, but when some people see potato latkes they act like they haven’t eaten for a week. They will want to make from latkes alone a meal. When you have people who enjoy so much, so you won’t mind grating potatoes all day long.”