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What's a Jew To Do?! Night 2012

NOTE: This is supposedly a sign posted in reference to the adaptive custom among many American Jews who do not celebrate Christmas, but celebrate alternatively by going out to eat Chinese food and see a movie. 12-20-oped-NL-poster
This photo, which is uncredited, is posted on many different websites. There really is a United Chinese Restaurant Association of America (UCRAA) functioning as a business portal which connects other business entities to Chinese Restaurants, such as credit card processing, business insurance, oil recycling, etc. There are over 38,000 Chinese-owned restaurants in the United States, and the UCRAA maintains a fairly accurate database of Chinese Food Restaurants in USA. However, I was unable to get confirmationn the UCRAA actually posted the sign in New York, or elsewhere, and I don't really care. It speaks volumes about the spirit of the season for my people, so therefore, I choose to believe they really posted it!
Every year I write a updated installment about what's happening on Christmas Eve for the residents of Mt. Deepwood. Most of you know Mt. Deepwood as the home of Number One, carlyladd, Bad Dog, and myself. This year, like years past, everyone (except Bad Dog), along with what ever cast of willing characters I've managed to assemble over the previous twelve months will be participating in the ancient tradition of going out for Chinese food on Dec. 24. It's commonly known as, What's a Jew To Do?! Night and is a nationwide phenomenon.
Things have changed a great deal since I was a child when everything was bolted shut at 3 p.m. on the 24th, except the odd Asian oasis serving Dinner for Four, with one from column A, one from column B, and a little bowl of pineapple chunks and toothpicks. These days, more and more businesses such as grocery stores, drug stores, fast food establishments and some big box retailers will be open, and even with new options, almost every Jew I know will treat the chicken lomein and a flaming, rum laden scorpion bowl as a deeply religious experience, rivaling only the energy we've all put into making creative excuses for skipping Hebrew School.
Looking back, there were several years during the past two decades when the girls went with their father over school vacation; and even during those difficult times, I managed to find a Jew or two to break egg roll with, and then hit up Fore Play for a jello shot.
Most recently, it has been their choice to be part of the entourage along with people we love, such as Ms. Flynn, their third grade teacher and her family, my friend and now-manager at the restaurant and her family, co-workers who couldn't face yet another obnoxious relative or dried out turkey dinner, my Californiacrazy ex, some anime/manga artists I met at an art show that Number One was enthralled with, first love/boyfriends of my daughters who are always welcome in my home, strangers without dinner reservations who have simply pulled up a chair, and many more who have come and gone, making each particular year different and special.
This year we will be at Kon Asian Bistro on Brighton Avenue, oohing and ahhing over flipped shrimp tails, Samurai knife moves, and New Guy's favorite, the little oil smoking onion volcano. Like all great traditions, none of it is new, but all of it is comforting.
At the table will be Number One, carlyladd and her He's Not My Boyfriend, Keegan; our new housemate, Justin, who will be recognizable by his tanning bed glow and pink scrubs, along with his mystery female guest from Texas; New Guy (see The Down Low for my feeble excuse), his beautiful daughter, who, despite the age difference, is one of my besties; her friend, Travis, and much to all of our delight New Guy's son, freshly home on leave from the Marines.
What's a Jew To Do?! Night is that peaceful place between the holiday craziness of the latke party, and the work-related love/hate-filled evening of New Year's Eve. I hope everyone enjoys a December 24th filled with friends, love, too much food, and meaningful traditions, no matter what you call the night.
The Down Low: For those single parents, Jewish or not, who find themselves alone on Christmas Eve, head down to your local Chinese restaurant or favorite sushi bar. It'll be like a match.com event or better yet, check out the Eater Maine website for a complete list of "Where to Eat on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day," compiled by my compadre Susan Axelrod, who along with photographer-husband Ted Axelrod, will definitely be invited to the Latke Party next year.
This will be the third year New Guy and his children have done What's a Jew To Do?! Night with us, and nothing explains what the holiday season is really about more than deep connections and loving relationships that stay intact when the realities of life march on. The joy and beauty of our situation, and my love-fest connection with his children make this something we all have been looking forward to. Hopefully, the upcoming year will bring my readers a new contender or two to pass judgment on, but chances are pretty damn good New Guy will be at the table next December 24th. After all, it's a tradition.
(Natalie Ladd is a columnist for the Portland Daily Sun. She has over 30 continuous years of corporate and fine-dining experience in all front-of-the-house management, hourly and under-the-table positions. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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