A Very Jew-ish Christmas Eve

I have been absent from this blog as I have been working on a self-appointed challenge to create 12 cards for the month of December and start up an Instagram account (@cecilespaperco for any who are mobile).  The process has been a great learning experience and has encouraged me to seek and create creative content.  While I have a long way to go, I am more inspired by the challenges presented rather than discouraged.  Right now I have a lot that I am working on, but I would still like to link this blog to my process and journey.  Additionally, I am hoping to use this blog as an outlet for compilations of writings – a sort of collection or anthology. To begin that segment, I revamped a story I wrote a few years ago about how my family celebrates Christmas Eve. As tonight is Christmas Eve, I thought it was a very appropriate and celebratory homage.


In such a tumultuous world there are very few constants from which we can take comfort and rely upon.   Though subtle, we can expect that the sun will rise and set each day, that Rush Hour will continue to be miserable, that Justin Beiber will inevitably do something boneheaded despite a huge PR overhaul, and, if you are not Christian and living in the US or surrounding territories, that Christmas Eve will be without a doubt the most unremarkable and boring night of the 365 calendar year.  Every December a small but resilient portion of the population prepares to tucker into mind-numbing idleness.  My family, who is at best “Jew-ish,” heaves a deep sigh as the clock changes the day from December 23 to December 24 as we anticipate the never-ending evening ahead.  For years, I have been asked what it is that we actually do.  Truth is, I am not sure that we know.  There is a really hazy fog that presides over the memory of most of my 25 Christmas Eves.  To ebb the flow of questions I actually decided to record this year’s activities for all of posterity.  In return, perhaps someone can explain to me why fruit cakes are still actually a thing?

The beginning of Christmas Eve is officially dubbed at 5 o’clock; this is when everything closes. Excluding of course Chinese restaurants and the occasional and abusive fast food chain that pays their workers a whopping $12.50 an hour to feed the poor, hungry unorthodox. Usually, the virtually non-existent Jewish community of Newbury Park find themselves at a Ming’s Dynasty for a quality Christmas Dinner.  Naturally, my family doesn’t like Chinese food, (that would be too easy), so we are at the mercy of whatever fine dining institution will take us. This year we were fortunate enough to stumble across an open Baja Fresh. Though not our first choice, we accepted. Strangely enough the only other place that showed no signs of closing was GNC, you know, in case someone was in dire need of their Muscle Milk because the eggnog wasn’t quite cutting it.

My dad and I entered Baja Fresh to find two other equally disheveled and pathetic groups.  Nobody gave us weird glances for eating fast food on Christmas Eve, they were just like us: out of place and disappointed by the dismal selection of food or entertainment.   After picking up our feast we drove the eerily emptying road and ate with the remainder of the family.  I could tell we were already over the evening.  We aren’t keen to Baja Fresh and my lackluster quesadilla was more tortilla than cheese.

But I am not one to be so easily defeated.  If nothing, I am passionate about emulating the Holiday Spirit I know must exist somewhere.  So this year I had something up my sleeve and announced to the family that we would be making Gingerbread Houses.  Somehow, everyone decided to participate, (I am surmising that this is due to a serious lack of other options).  

On the kitchen island I laid out all of the materials we might need: a cardboard box base, royal icing, graham crackers, and an assortment of boxed candies for decoration.  Having never done this before and not having the foresight to refer to Pinterest, we were shooting in the dark as we set up the base for the first ever Lipthay Manor created by edible materials.  We should have foreseen the doom of our project when our house structure began to take on complicated forms and would not support a roof. After 30 minutes of fruitless rearranging and uncomfortably sticky hands, we decided to go for an individual attempt. And then we started dropping like flies.

My youngest brother Tanner was first.  His attempt at a 2 storied square house with no roof hardly made the cut. When it finally stabilized, the decorations fell right off, leaving poor Tanner with a stack of organized crackers decorated with a smudge of frosting and a stale Gobstopper.  Some might call this a failure.  I deem it a success for the actual attempt.

My dad was next. He gets credit for the most unique design and ambitious attempt. Unfortunately, his design most closely represented a sweat shop instead of a magical gingerbread house. Constructed with no windows or doors, the building featured a cross-hatched balcony made out of licorice. With what can only be described as “a pathway to hell,” my dad’s yellow brick road leading to the building was constructed from yellow Skittles and marshmallows that weren’t even frosted to the preparatory board. 10 points for originality, negative 10 points for the sweat shop design, 5 points for the licorice lattice.

I was the third to drop.  My house, adorable from afar, looked like the Candyland board game and a ravage tribe of unicorns waged war against my decorations, and won.  I didn’t know that this could be possible, but it was almost too colorful.  All the same, I grant myself 10 points for being awesome and inspiring this activity.

My mom was the last to finish.  She insisted her house was the best because it was the only house to include an opening for the door, but I disputed the proportions as the door was the actual size of the graham cracker walls.  I pity my poor mother; she became a slave to her edible creation.  Towards the end of the construction she started twitching and mumbling about a deficiency in green M&Ms.  I would have suggested that she borrow some Skittles from my dad’s board, but I was more interested in watching the result of what was certainly the most amusing train wreck of the evening.   

My other brother was wise enough to jump ship after the manor attempt, sat on the couch, plucked at his guitar, and laughed at our misfortunes as they occurred.  

That whole series took about an hour.   The time is 7:30 and now we have a line of 4 houses that we have no idea what to do with.  I suppose we will dispose of them tomorrow.  I considered trying to eat mine but the quasi-quesadilla and the half a tub of icing that I ate during the construction process told my stomach otherwise.

And that, my dear friends, is a glimpse into a Jew-ish Christmas Eve. Now we are probably going to pace the floor and make faces at each other until we pass out.  We would stare at the TV but unfortunately “It’s a Wonderful Life” is playing on repeat on every channel except ABC who went out on a limb this and decided to play “The Chronicles of Narnia.” And, in even our most desperate boredom, there can be no worse fate than watching either of those movies.

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone 🙂 I would love to hear your adventures for the night.