Latkes and Loempia

There’s a woman in Memphis who gets offended when someone greets her with “Happy Holidays” instead of  “Merry Christmas”.  Imagine how offended she would be if she knew that I was Jewish when I wished her a “Happy Holiday”. It’s hard not to get caught up in the celebratory spirit of this time of year no matter what your religious belief, or whether you even celebrate anything in December. So it is a month when spirits are high and there is a collective feeling of warmth amongst us. We take the time to wish each other happiness in a personal way that is comfortable to each of us. And that’s shameful to the woman in Memphis.

Jews have always had a difficult time of it in December. The commercial bombardment on tv, the radio, print advertisements, billboards, and Christmas music seems to assail us wherever we go. It is rare that one hears the “Dreidel Song” or the story of the Maccabees anywhere other than a private home, synagogue or Jewish Community Center during this time. December is the month when we feel most invisible and often unwelcome, such as the woman in Memphis would like us to be.

Though our family is Jewish, we celebrate December holidays with a nod to our multiculturalism. In our home and community we embrace, respect and honor everyone’s religious belief and their choice of celebration. Of course we light one candle on each of the 8 nights of Hanukkah and we display a lit menorah in our window as well as hang a Hanukkah banner above our front door. We also display the many Christmas cards we receive from our Christian friends, family and colleagues. We receive red and green wrapped Christmas presents from our relatives who celebrate Christmas and share Christmas greetings with our neighbors. And on December 5 we all get our initials in chocolate to remember Sinterklaas from our family’s Dutch heritage.

If we know that someone celebrates Christmas then we wish them a Merry Christmas. If we don’t know them well enough to know their religious beliefs, then we wish them Happy Holidays. It would be presumptuous and arrogant of us to assume that everyone around us celebrates Christmas.

Food is something that unites people of many different backgrounds. And in December, it shows. Of course, we make latkes, a potato pancake fried in oil which represents the miracle of the oil that burned after the destruction of the Temple during the time of the Maccabees.

Latkes cooking in oil

But  in the spirit of embracing our diversity, we also use that oil to fry loempia, a Dutch-Indonesian eggroll. The understanding and acceptance of diversity begins at home. And what better time to teach this than during the holiday season.

Loempia with chicken and vegetable filling

So to the woman in Memphis, who cannot see beyond her own bubble of church, religion, community, listen to me. December is not only for you, it is for all of us. For all of us who choose to celebrate or not.  To celebrate Christmas or not. To celebrate Hanukkah or not. To celebrate Kwanzaa or not. To celebrate St. Nicholas Day or not. To celebrate Festivus or not. Or not to celebrate at all. December is about respect, tolerance and acceptance.

When I say “Happy Holidays” to you, relax, smile, and enjoy the season.

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Desperately Seeking High End Crafts in Memphis

 

WinterArts - Affordable Gifts by Local Artists

Living in the Bible Belt guarantees that each holiday season there will be a gazillion opportunities to attend “Arts and Crafts Bazaars” at a local church on any given Saturday between Halloween and Christmas. Few of these fairs are juried by committees with discerning eyes for fine craft. So by this time in November, local folks may get pretty tired of seeing yet another onesie proclaiming that it’s wearer is “Cute as a Button” or thin socks made in China, or wreaths and jewelry assembled from kits that were assembled in China. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But for those who expect a unique and finely made craft object produced by a maker who considers himself/herself a professional artist, and who produces his/her art locally, there is relief in sight.

In recent years, the craft holiday market in Memphis has been growing to include high end craft items created by local artists who have been doing this kind of work for years.  Previously, many have found greater success in selling their work outside of the area where the market for good quality craft products command more respect and in turn a higher price. For years, the high end holiday shows in this region have been commandeered by the fine art market, which locally is very fine indeed. However, little room was left for the many glass artists, wood workers, fiber artists, metalsmiths, printmakers and clay artists who live and work in the Memphis area.

This holiday season, there will be two shows that are fairly new to Memphis (this will be the second year for both shows) that will showcase the fine crafts of local artists. And of course everything will be available for sale at very reasonable prices. And yes, my handwoven scarves and my handbound books will be at both shows.  If you are in the Memphis area or plan to visit, please stop by. WinterArts will be open daily until December 24 and the Brooks Museum Artists Market will be a one day event on December 5. The Museum will be planning many special events on that day for shoppers and museum goers including a special holiday luncheon at their renowned “Brushmark” Restaurant. I hope to meet many of you there! More information is posted below.

WinterArts – Affordable Gifts by Local Artists.  The Shops of Saddle Creek South, West Street at Poplar Avenue, Germantown, TN 38138.  Opening Reception is Friday, November 26, 2010, 5:30 – 9 PM.  Open daily from November 27 to December 24.  Works in glass, clay, wood, metal, fiber, jewelry, photography and paintings.

Brooks Museum Artists Market at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, 1934 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104.  Sunday, December 5, 2010 from 11 AM – 5 PM.  Holiday bazaar presented by the Brooks Museum Gift Shop and representing local artists who also sell their work year round in the gift shop. Artists who will be there work in clay, wood, metal, jewelry, paper and fiber.