New York Christmas for Jews

I don’t know if it’s because I watched too much ‘Home Alone’ growing up, but there’s something about New York that makes Christmas time especially magical and atmospheric. From the beaming green and red Empire State Building, to the mesmerizing, decadent 5th ave window displays, to the packed ice skating rinks, to the pop up Christmas markets effusing the air with hot apple cider and gingerbread; nowhere does Christmas quite like New York.

hot cider

The Christmas spirit here is infectious. Countless strangers stopped me in stores or on the street to wish me happy holidays. A market stall owner gifted me a stunning, orange-cinnamon scented candle ‘coz it’s Christmas’. A colleague made everyone in the office a Christmas stocking stuffed with candy, our names hand written in glitter.

I’ve appreciated the Christmas build up all my life, but not celebrating Christmas myself, have always felt somewhat of an outsider to the joy and festivities. I spent the last 2 pre-NY Christmases with my (ex) boyfriend at his Mum’s. It was the first time I’d giddily unwrapped pressies from under the tree, yanked apart Christmas crackers and stuffed myself with Christmas dinner plus all the trimmings. But it still felt like someone else’s Christmas.

In New York, a city of 1.1 million Jews, I was thrilled to discover that Channukah also gets the limelight. Most buildings, including my office and hairdresser, sported an electronic menorah; I smiled every time I saw one. I also received an invitation to my very first Channukah party through a girl I’d met briefly at university and had remained in touch with on Facebook. We lit candles at her beautiful Fidi apartment, and she plied us with crispy latkes, oily donuts and New York cheesecake.


On Christmas day I was kindly invited to a friend of a friend of a friend’s, whom I had met only once previously. All the other guests were married or in a relationship, but it didn’t bother me one bit. I was having a much welcome, peaceful dating break and felt content just being me, myself and I.

It was a pot luck dinner, which meant everyone brought a dish. We feasted on juicy turkey, fragrant stuffing, sauteed brussels and roasted vegetables. Dessert was even better: sweet baked apple crumble, gooey pecan pie and warm chocolate chip banana bread. Despite our food comas, we still managed to end the evening with Charades and Heads Up on the Ipad.

It was my first Christmas in New York, and only 3 months since I’d made the move, but I’d never felt more at home and part of the Holidays as I did here.

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