WHEW!!!! It was a mad dash through to the end of the year! My schedule was complicated by a trip to England to present at Limmud, UK, perhaps the biggest Jewish cultural conference in the world! It all started in the UK and has now spread to many other places, including the United States. There were thousands of attendees and hundreds of presenters gathered for 4 days on a university campus in the Midlands! It was an unbelievable experience! According to the Limmud website, it is “a thousand conversations on every subject of interest to Jews – text study, music, theatre, literature, debate, politics – and wraps it up in a week of community, warmth, laughter, passion, excitement and discovery to take you one step further on your Jewish journey.” At Limmud Uk, I even attended a Matashayu concert to boot! He is regularly in attendance!
Other highlights from England include spending time with family and friends. Many less observant Jews in London observe Christmas in some fashion. In my absence, my wife and 12-year old son went to a Christmas Eve party at one cousin’s house, where a lavishly decorated tree stood next to a table holding a Menorah. On Christmas Day, it was off to another cousin’s house for Christmas lunch of turkey and trimmings. Needless to say, what impressed my son the most was the newly encountered tradition of ‘Christmas crackers.’ A cracker consists of a cardboard tube wrapped in a brightly decorated twist of paper. In shape, it resembles an over-sized tootsie-roll! Crackers are typically pulled apart at the Christmas dinner table or at parties. The tradition in my cousins’ house involves two people, each taking hold of one end and simultaneously pulling until the cracker splits in two, often unevenly. The split is accompanied by a mild bang or snapping sound, hence the name ‘cracker.’ The person with the larger portion of the cracker empties the contents from the tube and keeps whatever is inside. Typically, there is a colored paper hat, a small toy or plastic model or other trinket, accompanied by a riddle or joke or piece of trivia on small piece of paper similar to what one finds in a fortune cookie. In one cousin’s house, the crackers were quite ornate and contained quite lavish presents! And in keeping with tradition, at the Christmas lunch, everyone donned the paper hat, which resembled a crown and wore them while eating Christmas lunch.
Perhaps, as was my son’s suggestion, we should adopt this as a new Bar Mitzvah custom!!! Any takers?