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Today I'm happy to present a NEW tradition for the holidays, straight from Steve Brezenoff himself! If you don't already know Steve, he is the author of the fabulous novel, Absolute Value of -1.
He even brought along a giveaway just for you fantastic readers! Aren't you the lucky ones? Read, enjoy, ruminate!
I’ve heard people say it’s tough to be Jewish between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They’re definitely right. Sure, a menorah shows up now and then, and the good people on the local evening news broadcast are always careful to wish a happy Hanukkah to their “Jewish friends.” And hey, in a lot of Jewish families, the kids get eight gifts, right? Not too shabby.
All that is nice, but with Christmas covering the land as far as the eye can see, like a veritable plague of flashing, glittery, fake-snow-covered, electricity-sucking locusts, it can—on reflection—feel a little token.
Obviously, there was a big part of my little-kid soul that craved Christmas. I mean, it looked like a freaking fun, you know?
Still, growing up in a heavily Jewish area, like I did, takes the edge off the Christmas season a little more. It even makes it bearable, when you know that most families nearby don’t have a Christmas tree in the window, or stockings over the fireplace, or trips to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap. At least they understand.
But wait, Steve, you’re not doubt thinking. What about all those secular Jews I’ve heard about? They don’t celebrate Hanukkah, do they?
Good point, reader. Some secular Jews do, but many don’t. In fact, my family didn’t celebrate much of anything, outside of Thanksgiving and Halloween. During winter, with such a glorious landscape of holidays to choose from, my family chose none. None! Well, as you can imagine, my brother and I wouldn’t hear of it. We insisted! We demanded presents, special meals, and a reason to stay up all night.
And so the Brezenoff New Year’s Eve tradition was born.
First, there was the special meal to consider. My father, who never had much time to contribute with cooking, would make four beautiful filet mignons. I’m not sure I’ve ever had filet mignon besides the ones served on New Year’s Eve, as a matter of fact. And I didn’t even like steak! I hated it, in fact. Chances are (my memory is a tad vague), I requested my filet cooked right through till the whole thing was gray—it was the juices that really grossed me out. Still, we wanted a special meal, and we got it!
For dessert, chocolate mousse! This was one of my mom’s specialties. She got the recipe from her New York Times Cookbook. Here’s the recipe: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/20/recipe-of-the-day-chocolate-mousse/. I recommend it highly. (Yes, it has raw eggs in it. You can use pasteurized eggs if that weirds you out or whatever.)
Next, presents! I’m sure this wasn’t specifically part of the tradition, but in my memory the gifts were always Atari cartridges. I wish I still had them, every single one—especially Adventure, the one with the dragon that looked like a duck.
And staying up all night? Well, of course we stayed up till midnight and watched Dick Clark—who I think is younger now than he was then, somehow—and managed to convince Mom and Dad to let us take the tiniest sip of champagne. I think we usually didn’t quite make it till midnight, but our parents would wake us up, let us watch the dropping ball, maybe twirl a noisemaker, and then back to bed we’d go.
As my brother and I got older, New Year’s Eve became less important around our house, especially as my we started making our own plans for the night with our friends. Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate the holiday season to some degree. I’ve even celebrated Christmas a bunch of times now. Heck, just the other day, I hung a string of glittery, flashing, fake-snow-covered lights outside my house—solar ones.
Want to enter to win a copy of Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff?
I know you do!!!
Open to U.S. residents only, giveaway ends December 31, 2010.
TO ENTER: Leave Steve a comment below! Include your email address to contact you if you win!