What Can’t Go Wrong During the Holidays

When asked to write a piece on the holidays about how things sometimes do not go quite the way we planned, I remembered a friend of mine saying to me that Murphy was an optimist. He of course was alluding to that famous phrase about Murphy’s Law: “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Was Murphy Jewish or Catholic, or maybe this Murphy held some other kind of faith-based belief system. Actually, I do not think it much matters, since we all go a certain amount of crazy during that special time of year known as the holidays (cue the music: yes, that same music you have been hearing in elevators and shopping malls for the last, well, how many years have you been on this planet?).

The following are a number of key moments in your holiday experience that I want to reflect on, but please notice I did not say make better or solve problems. I’ll leave that to the myriad of “experts” on various blogs, You Tube channels, print media and talk shows.


The List

Whatever holiday or blended combination of holidays you happen to celebrate, from my perspective we are all the same. I will attempt to break it down for you and if you, while reading this, happen to break out in a cold sweat and say to yourself “not me, not this year, I learned my lesson last year,” then face the real possibility that you’re kidding yourself. Hoping to take some of the stress out of this special time, maybe you commit to writing down a plan so you don’t forget anything. Maybe you write it down using pens, pencils, paper (does anyone under 30 really use these things any more or know how?), or use your desk top computer, laptop, digital pad, Samsung Notes (the new one promises not to catch fire and become a digital yule log or Chanukah candle), cell phone and Blackberry (do they really make these anymore?). It takes about three days to lose the list, delete the list or have to modify the list beyond recognition. Oh yeah, we congratulate ourselves, I did the list thing to lessen the stress of the holidays, but it didn’t quite work out the way I thought. . .


The Holiday Media Experience

You remember all those movies, don’t you? It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Miracle on 34th street (yes, that is Natalie Wood as a child actor) Eight Crazy Nights (and did I just include Eight Crazy Nights, Adam Sandler’s animated film on a list of Christmas classics that have stood the test of time?). Here is another question: why didn’t the Jewish people, those who practically invented the movie and music business, write a Chanukah classic film or write a classic Jewish holiday song? Don’t say The Chanukah Song by Adam Sandler (what is this thing I have with Adam Sandler?) White Christmas, The Christmas Song, Let it Snow Let it Snow all written by, you guessed it, Jews. Let’s move on…


The Food

Now we are talking. Every family seems to have a special food or tradition, the unique and beloved treats of the holiday season. Yes, Chanukah features delectable food options such as Latkes (potato pancakes) and doughnuts (sufganiyot in Hebrew), that are fried in oil (oil lamps, candles, illumination, Festival of Lights, you get it, right?) Then there’s the brisket, the delight of noodle kugel – do I hear a new year’s resolution coming on? Oh, sorry, the Jewish New Year comes before Chanukah, so you’re out of luck.


Christmas is a holiday filled with gastronomic favorites as well, such as turkey (brined, fried, smoked, basted, baked, rubbed, natural, frozen, stuffed with other creatures, turducken anyone?). Also roast beef, mashed potatoes, glazed ham, gingerbread cookies and the ultimate Christmas dessert that just keeps on giving, the ubiquitous fruitcake. Many holidays are based on stories from the ancient past, which are the inspiration, quite frankly, for the noble fruitcake. A fruitcake can last as long as a Yule Log video, which is basically forever.


Gift Giving

A common tradition of many faith-based belief systems (and Walmart, Macy’s, Best Buy, Amazon, EBay etc.) is that we need to give gifts at this time of year to those we love, tolerate, work for or with. This is a very nice tradition and adds much to the gross national product and stock prices of many a Fortune 500 company. This is a democracy, after all, and We the People will shop! is a phrase very much in vogue at this time of year. The lines, black Friday, cyber Monday and midnight mayhem all seem to have become traditions in a strange way. The Jewish people have to figure out the eight-day dilemma. Should we give one big gift, or eight smaller ones? How do we make our kids feel better after the deluge of category 5 Christmas mania hits full force? These gift-giving questions are so big and hard to answer, they can make the why are we here? or is there really a higher power? seem almost mundane.



My beloved Russian grandmother (or was it my mother) used to say: “take a deep breath and count to ten before acting or reacting.” This is good advice at any time of year, but it seems especially relevant at this time of year. Let us all take a deep breath, meditate or just take a small amount of time to think about why we  are celebrating a holiday in the first place. Words such as faith, family, fun and joy may come to mind.

Now, where is that list I made last week?

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06 Dec 2017

By Michael Berman