The meaning of Easter through the eyes of a Jewish chocoholic

Small children on an Easter egg hunt

A friend was apologizing to me yesterday for not knowing more about Passover and Jewish customs. “Bah humbug,” I responded, “I probably know even less about your customs.” It’s true. Despite my living in a world where Christianity is the predominant religion, I know very little about the real meaning of Easter.

I have managed to familiarize myself with the important non-religious Easter customs, however. I know that children look forward to a grand Easter egg hunt sometime over the weekend. I also know that these same children would be disappointed if the eggs weren’t made of chocolate. I am glad that I did not know, as a child, that Christian children everywhere were hunting for chocolate Easter eggs and I wasn’t invited. This ignorance is due not only to my Jewish heritage but also to growing up in a predominantly Jewish community.

When I examined the true meaning of the Easter egg hunt more deeply, I realized Jewish children do engage in a similar ritual during the Passover Seder. Early in the Seder, a piece of matzah known as the afikomen is hidden for the children to find after the Seder meal. The excitement of finding the afikomen is not without its purpose: the goal is to keep the wee ones awake through the long celebration. That excitement used to keep me up for hours, I’m sure, although I can’t recall my childhood excitement as an adult.

In case you were wondering, afikomen means “dessert” because it is supposed to be eaten after the meal, when it is found. Matzah for dessert! Yummy! Thankfully, at our recent 30-minute Seder, we somehow forgot to end our meal by eating the afikomen. Rather than matzah for dessert, we insteaded suffered through large slices of Kosher-for-Passover lemon cake and flourless chocolate cake.

Compare our two traditions: Jewish children get to look for the afikomen while their Christian friends search for chocolate Easter eggs. Which custom would you prefer? Need I even ask? The searches may be similar but, in this case, the rewards are vastly dissimilar.

Usually, when I write about being Jewish, I try to convince you that our celebrations and rituals are more fun/better/more exciting than yours. I’m not trying to preach or proselytize; I’m just telling it like I see it. Being Jewish is great. One morning of gifts at Christmas vs. eight days of Hanukkah gifts? I rest my case.

But in this instance, I won’t even try to bring you on board (“board” is a Jewish pun, since matzah and cardboard taste remarkably similar, at least to those who have tasted cardboard). If I had a choice, I’d take the chocolate eggs over the matzah anytime. Matzah notwithstanding, I’m still happy to be Jewish, especially during Hanukkah.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to go and put my first-ever batch of hot cross buns in the oven. J. loves hot cross buns, and it is Good Friday. Of course I will not eat any of these leavened baked goods myself because Passover has not yet passed over. Also, I’ve decided to nix the crosses on them because, well, I’m Jewish. I’m substituting Xs instead. Do you think J. will still know what they are?

Homemade batch of hot cross buns

Why are these playoffs different than all other playoffs?

We are on the second day of Passover now, Jews around the world are struggling with GDDTM (that’s “gastric distress due to matzah), and my suffering is just beginning. Tonight the Stanley Cup playoffs kick off and Edmonton Oilers fans province wide will end what they have dubbed the 10-year post-season drought. Try hanging out in the desert for 40 years, Oilers fans, and you’ll appreciate the true meaning of drought.

Tonight, with the help of their key player, Connor McDavid (that’s McJesus to you), the Oilers will start their run at the Cup. Oilers fans will be glued to their television sets to watch the first-round match up, knowing their boys in blue stand a good chance.

Sadly, the Calgary Flames have earned a playoff spot by the skin of their goalie, and their fans do not hold out the same hope. I don’t know hockey, yet I’m anticipating they’ll barely make it through the first round. They’re up against the best in the West and if I were the betting type, I’d be placing my money on the other team. Calgary doesn’t stand a chance. That’s why I have not chosen even one Calgary player in my hockey pool. (Sure, maybe J. chose my players for me since she’s the only true hockey fan in this household, but even if I were choosing for myself, I’d have passed on the Flames.)

The Oilers-Flames rivalry dates back almost as many years as the Jews’ wandering in the desert. That’s why Oilers fans are gloating over their successful season and their playoff prospects, while Flames fans fear the end is near.

Life-sized stuffed Grover in Oilers jersey sitting on couchDid I mention that J. roots for the Oilers and I for the Flames (solely to irritate J., of course)? This won’t be a problem after the first round of playoffs, when I too will be rooting for the one Alberta team still in contention, but tonight I will be outnumbered: J. has invited her Oiler-fan friends to her woman cave to kick off Round 1, and I will be the only one wearing a vibrant red Flames jersey. Even our life-sized Grover is rooting for the Oilers, and Jelly will be doing the same, under coercion. (N.B.: I will not be posting a picture of Jelly in her cute little Oilers t-shirt because I refuse to soften the blow of her disloyalty.)

One of the couples attending has baked a homemade cheesecake adorned with the Oilers’ logo. This same couple made that scrumptious rainbow cheesecake for Pride last September, so I know it will be divine. It looks incredible, don’t you think? However delicious it may be, I’ve been told I don’t get any unless I join the immoral majority. If I really want a slice of cheesecake, I must jump on the blue bandwagon.

I can’t switch allegiances yet, though, because I enjoy being the antagonist. No matter. This cheesecake will not be kosher for Passover, and you know I am too good a Jew to eat of the forbidden fruit. So enjoy your delectable cake but first pass me the matzah, would you? Tonight I must suffer like my ancestors. Bring on the GDDTM.

Cheesecake with Oilers logo on it

Is it time to update the Seder plate?

Seder plate with the 6 traditional items on it

I know, I know, I did not humour you with a post yesterday. Because I had festivities to attend in the evening, I needed a long afternoon nap instead. Today I’ve had to badger J. to complete my entries for this year’s hockey pool. I’ve had a lot on my Seder plate.

Last night, I thoroughly enjoyed the 30-minute Seder, abbreviated out of respect for the short attention spans of the two toddlers present (and me). In no time at all, we managed to hit the highlights, including the Passover story, the 10 plagues (recited in Hebrew so as not to invoke any fear of smiting in the wee ones), and the meaning of the items on the Seder plate. That left us time for a few songs.

Consider the Seder plate the centrepiece of the festive table. On it are 6 traditional items: bitter herbs, bitter greens, another vegetable for dipping, a hard boiled egg, a lamb shank bone (replaced by a doggy Milkbone when the real deal is unavailable), and charoset, a fruit-nut mixture representing the mortar and bricks of our labour. Oh, and there’s matzah and salt water alongside too. Together these items represent the hardship we endured when we were enslaved in Egypt. Let’s say those herbs are bitter for a reason.

Were I to expound on the meaning of each item, you’d think we Jews were a cranky lot, but that’s not true. Sure, we went through tough times, but we have so much to celebrate. Perhaps revamping that downer of a Seder plate would help. Can we fathom some new symbols less reflective of suffering? How about a chocolate egg instead of that boiled one? Seems obvious why kids enjoy Easter more than Passover.

A pile of small coconut macaroonsWe might include something from the coconut food group, since coconut is pivotal in Passover treats. I envision some delicious canned Manishewitz macaroons, so small they can be eaten by the handful. (You’re surprised to learn that Manishewitz produces not only sweet wine but all manner of tasty kosher food? Try the gefilte fish!) Several of these one-bite wonders would look at home on the Seder plate, and they’d be one of the first things I’d crave after years of eating matzah.

Pile of toasted coconut marshmallowsThose pillowy soft toasted-coconut marshmallows would look splendid too. Kosher marshmallows are hard to come by since marshmallows are made with gelatin, an animal byproduct. If the animal isn’t kosher (pigs aren’t, I hear), neither is the gelatin derived from it. But every year, toasted-coconut marshmallows made with kosher gelatin magically appear amongst the Passover foods at the supermarket. For those of you attending a second Seder tonight (I bow out after one), what better gift for the Seder host (other than Manishewitz wine of course)? If you don’t believe me, try one of these scrumptious marshmallow delicacies sometime, and another, and another. The bag will be gone in no time.

To any observant Jews reading this post–after your second Seder ends of course–I mean no offence. I simply believe we Jews are a happy, sometimes chubby, people who appreciate our sweets, and that these treats deserve a place at the Seder. Children (and I) would prefer marshmallows to bitter herbs hands down.

“Let my people eat!”*

Moses in a basket on the riverDid you hear researchers recently reviewed studies of how much babies cry? Who cares? Of course babies cry. They get hungry, they need their diapers changed, they get sick. Since they can’t talk, crying is their way of communicating their discontent.

According to their study, Canadian babies, along with those from Italy and the UK, cry the most. I’d say Canadian babies have more reason to cry than babies from other countries. It’s cold here and the winters are long. Who can stand being cooped up? Canadian babies want to go on more walks but, if it’s not too darn cold, sidewalks aren’t passable to strollers because of the unshovelled snow.

Rumour has it I was quite the crybaby in my infancy, although I don’t know how much I cried compared to the recently determined national average. You’d have to ask my mom. Better yet, I’ll ask her, since she’s a diligent follower of my blog.

Annie: “Hey mom! Did I cry a lot? Was I colicky?”

Mom: [Silence.]

(Turns out my mother is not a diligent blog commenter, so my secret is safe.)

There is one fatal oversight in this research, which makes me wonder why the well-reputed Journal of Pediatrics published it: the researchers studied only infants. I know, I know, it’s the Journal of Pediatrics. Still, what about the country where adults cry the most? Wouldn’t that be more interesting?

People expect babies to cry, but they’re alarmed when adults do. Remember when the ER doctor told me I needed a hospital admission, and I cried because I hate being in hospital? My crying prompted a referral to the social worker because of my apparent emotional instability. From this experience, I learned not to cry in front of doctors.

Then, a few weeks ago, I tripped and fell, bruising both knees. I would have cried but I didn’t want my dear friend M., who was with me at the time, to think I was a baby, so I held it together. I shed a few tears of embarrassment once I was home.

I foresee ample opportunity to cry at the Passover seder on Monday evening. I’ll cry because the Jews were enslaved in Egypt for so many years. I’ll be cry out of fear that baby Moses will not survive his ride down the river in a leaky basket. (Ed. note: He does survive, thank God.) Then I’ll cry because the Jews wandered in the desert for so many years and no one thought to ask for directions.

There will be ample opportunity to cry over the festive meal itself. I’ll cry over the feared consequences of matzah. As an adult, I understand why the fruit plates of my childhood seders always had prunes on them. I’ll cry when I dip my greens in the salt water. Why must our symbolic tears be so salty? Finally, I’ll weep with hunger because the story of Passover is so darn long we won’t eat for hours.

Do you now appreciate why this crying study would be a lot more interesting if adults were the focus? If the Journal of Adulthood would consider revamping the research, I’d gladly be the first participant. Any other cryadults want to join me?

 

*Ask your favourite Jewish person to explain this joke.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Chrismukkah

Blue and gold Hanukkah sweaterPeople who don’t celebrate Hanukkah sometimes don’t appreciate that this holiday is but a drop in the bucket of Jewish festivals. We’re not commemorating the birth of a saviour or anything momentous like that. It’s more of a David-and-Goliath story, where the Maccabees play the underdog who prevails.

Hanukkah traditions also differ greatly from those of Christmas. There is no such thing as a Hanukkah bush and no gifts arrive via the chimney. We don’t hang Hanukkah wreaths (although an image search reveals a frightening number of them) and Hanukkah stockings don’t hang from the mantle. The ugly Hanukkah sweater is harder to find. We’re even blue and white to your red and green.

Box for a Hanukkah gingerbread houseI’ll admit we Jews bake our share of menorah-shaped sugar cookies this time of year, but few if any gingerbread. I was so flabbergasted a few weeks back when I spied a Hanukkah gingerbread house that I took a picture and sent it to all my Jewish friends. Building a gingerbread house is a Christmas tradition, and not one I’ve envied since childhood.

Our world is consumed by Christmas each year, whether we celebrate or not. To be fair, J. and I do participate in our unreligious way since J. is not Jewish. In December, a few singing Snoopys dressed in Christmas garb magically appear around the house, as well as our beloved Charlie Brown Christmas tree. J. hangs Christmas lights on our house barring a December cold spell. Then she adorns our wholly unChristmassy Christmas tree with a variety of dog ornaments. And of course there’s the annual television viewing of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Hanukkah wreathBecause the Jewish calendar differs from the usual, the dates of Jewish holidays vary from year to year. This year, Hanukkah happens to start on Christmas Eve and end on New Year’s Day. A true confluence of celebrations! So the question arises: how do we celebrate both holidays at the same time? J. graciously decided that Hanukkah would take precedence this year.

On Christmas Eve, after J. lights up our doggy Christmas tree, we will light the first candle on the menorah. I will sing the blessings while J. hums along. (She’s not yet fluent in Hebrew.) Then we will join dear friends for a lovely Christmas Eve dinner. We will be bringing home-baked challah and a Middle Eastern salad because, well, I’m Jewish.

On Christmas Day, Hanukkah will take centre stage. We’ve planned a small Jewish feast for two in keeping with our Hanukkah celebration. We’re subbing Mediterranean-spiced turkey-zucchini meatballs for roast turkey, latkes for mashed potatoes, and apple sauce for that disgusting canned gelatinous cranberry jelly.

And the presents? Rather than opening all our little gifts in no time on Christmas morning, we will each open one small gift every evening for eight days as we light the menorah, as per the Hanukkah tradition. This way we will extend our celebration. Hanukkah, the holiday that never ends.

I wish you all a happy holiday season. Thanks for following along (tolerating my drivel?) this past year.

P.S. If I’m quieter than usual next week, I may be busy crafting my annual post on New Year’s resolutions. Stay tuned.

Secret Santa, the brainchild of a wise Jewish philosopher?

Button with picture of Jewish philosopher Maimonides with caption: "What would Maimonides do?"

I was thinking about Secret Santa the other day. Not the one who buys you a tacky gift at your company’s Christmas party. Not the one who assembles your longed-for train set in the living room after you go to sleep Christmas Eve (sorry to break it to you, kids, that’s not Santa, it’s your parents, and they ate those cookies too). Not even the one who secretly bought me extra admissions for the gym recently. I’m speaking of the one who supports, whether through gifts or monetary donations, others’ holiday celebrations around the world. Why must the giving be limited to Christmas? Let’s include anyone who helps others at any time of year in our definition.

I had an unexpected encounter with a generous Secret Santa in my midst Monday evening. Secret Santa is a diligent volunteer at Canadian Blood Services who often arrives early to her shift. She is friendly and outgoing and a pleasure to work with. (Open your mind; not all Secret Santas are boys.)

This do-gooder apologized after arriving a few minutes late to her shift that night. She was delayed dropping off two turkeys at a local homeless shelter for their well-attended upcoming Christmas dinner. She had planned to donate just one turkey but because they were on sale, she could afford two.

I don’t know much about Secret Santa, except that she is a young woman starting out in her career. She is married but I do not know what her husband does or even whether he is employed at this time of high joblessness in Calgary. I do know she is a generous, good person, and she needn’t have apologized for being late. She told me: “I am lucky to have so much. This donation was the least I could do.”

This woman is not Jewish, yet I’m wondering whether she knows of Maimonides, a 12th century Jewish philosopher and physician (people had multiple professions back then) who described eight levels of charity. The lowest level is giving unwillingly–makes sense, doesn’t it?–while the highest is helping someone become self-sufficient even before the need arises by, for example, offering a job to someone out of work or teaching someone a means of earning a living.

Secret Santa’s act of generosity falls second from the top: giving anonymously to an unknown recipient, thereby sparing the recipient the shame of needing to ask for help. When she dropped off those turkeys, she did not leave her name, nor did she know who would be eating them. The recipients will not know of the effort she made to procure their protein. I imagine Maimonides would laud her selfless act were he still alive.

I wish I could tell you that, after hearing Secret Santa’s story, I ran out and filled the food bank bin at the grocery store or made an anonymous donation to Calgary’s Jewish Family Services, an agency which serves Jews and non-Jews alike, but alas I did not. I have no excuse for my negligence. Thank goodness I have time yet to make Maimonedes proud. I may not have Secret Santa’s credentials but I’ll come up with something. ‘Tis the season, is it not?

Beware the unexpected role reversal

Basset sleeping on couch with purple eye mask on

I can imagine what you were up to yesterday. Perhaps, if you live in the States, you were having a heated discussion over Thanksgiving dinner about your newly elected president. Or maybe you were scouring the internet planning out your Black Friday shopping. Did you know Canada now has Black Friday sales even though it’s not Thanksgiving here? I don’t get it either.

While you were out and about, I was sleeping. That’s not entirely accurate. First J. and I headed to the hospital at the crack of dawn, where I underwent my annual esophageal inspection. That’s where the sleeping comes in. Sedation is my saviour. Sometimes it’s best not to remember a thing.

After I was prepped, a nurse wheeled me into Dr. Fois Gras’s procedure room. I was first on the roster since I wanted those hands at their most steady. First Dr. F.G., who is nothing but thorough, reviewed every possible way the procedure could go wrong. My excitement about the impending sedation allowed me to tune him out. Then I confirmed he’d had time for his early-morning coffee, which would hopefully prevent any of these untoward outcomes. Finally, I went under. Everything subsequent to that is a blur, although with J.’s assistance, I arrived home stoned but in one piece.

Some people choose to have this scope without sedation. Why, I ask them, why? Why would you tolerate discomfort and anxiety if you didn’t need to? What if the doctor had needed to do a little cleaning up in there during my procedure? Would I really want to be awake? No thanks. I’d rather wake up after the work is done, sore throat and all.

I did have a prolonged discussion once with someone who chose not to undergo sedation. This woman, the Jewish chaplain, paid me an unsolicited visit a few years back when I was in hospital. This particular admission was especially stressful because my spleen was misbehaving. Doctors discussed scary interventions with me, including risky major surgery. During their investigations, they discovered my esophagus was a mess, prompting a procedure identical to yesterday’s, with bonus intervention. Wish I could tell you more but I slept right through it.

In the midst of all this scariness, the chaplain dropped by to offer her support. The chaplain is a lovely woman and it is kind of her to make time to visit me but I’d prefer she didn’t, not because I’m a bad Jew, but because her visits are exhausting. On this occasion, after hearing about my scope, she mentioned that she had undergone the same procedure just that morning without sedation. I would have praised her for her bravery but my inside voice was rudely scoffing her.

The chaplain then proceeded to share at length her current health concerns with me. I was  in considerable pain at that time (hence the hospital admission), and I wasn’t in the mood to play psychologist, but I am not a rude person so I listened patiently. By the time she left, I needed a nap. Next time she visits, if there is a next time that I’m in hospital, I may pretend to be sleeping. Better that than my impolite inside voice leak out.

Vacation musings from a tired traveller

Grover in eaves of small model of St. Stephen's church in ViennaThe great thing about vacations is that I learn so many new things. Here are but a few of my recent insights for you to consider:

1) Daylight savings time occurs in Europe just like it does in North America, but not necessarily on the same day. Hence the unanticipated time for writing this morning.

2) Although Vienna is gorgeous and overwhelming, I am more of a Prague person than a Vienna person. Maybe it’s that I don’t like the “Wiener” moniker.

3) I do not like Sacher torte, which confirms my ancestry is not Austrian.

4) There is a haunting absence of Jews, but not Jewish history, in these parts.

Grover looks into window at chocolate shop in AustriaThere comes a time in every vacation when I realize that: a) I’m not going to accomplish many of the experiences I had planned for; and, b) I’m not going to eat many of the traditional foods I had on my list.

Turns out a vacation is a microcosm of life. We try to cram so many things in to the time we have, friendships and families and vacations and a career and maybe even the odd hobby or passion, but at some point we realize we have dreams that we’re not going to be able to realize. I, for example, will never become a master baker despite years of research and trial and even more error.

There are so many ways someone can arrive at this place. Consider injury or the simple fact of aging. As joints get creaky, another triathlon may be out, for example. As kids come on the scene, a Himalayan trek may become significantly more challenging.

Grover in Austrian National LibraryAnd then, to bring it all back to me, as I am prone to doing, I’ve come to realize that, among other things, fatigue would stop me from realizing many of the goals I had set for myself both professionally and personally. My health would impede my seeing plays or going to concerts, it would kibosh my energy for socializing, and it would sometimes make getting through the day a challenge.

But this change in life course hasn’t been all bad. Sometimes I’ve been pleasantly surprised, not simply because I’m still alive, but because I’ve accomplished some unexpected things since I’ve been sick. I’ve started writing for fun rather than work and discovered a new passion.

I’ve made new friends, enriching my life, which amazes me. What kind of odd, i.e., crazy, person out there would want to befriend someone who may die? There are a few willing to take that risk, to my surprise and delight.

This last one’s been more challenging, but I’m finally learning to fill my newfound time since there’s a lot of that, while still seeing clients if the opportunity arises. Every smidgen of work brings me joy these days.

And there’s even something exciting on the horizon: Jelly and I will soon be visiting a setting where she’ll provide comfort to people in need. Thankfully, she’s usually better behaved in a new setting than a familiar one. By the time she has learned the visiting routine, her pulling me down the hall howling with excitement at the nursing home, or hospital, or wherever we’re placed, will hopefully be welcomed and appreciated.

 

How to succeed in self-restraint without really trying

 

Picture of Prague with Super Grover in foreground
As we leave for Vienna, I thought I’d summarize some of Prague’s highlights. You know, the must dos for anyone visiting for the first time. I do this as much for myself as for you, since I immediately forget all the wonderful experiences I have on vacation after they’re over. J., on the other hand, can provide a running account of what we did every moment several years later.

First, there’s the architecture, much of it dating back several centuries, which we took in by meandering through the cobblestone streets. Everywhere we looked, we saw intricately adorned building and churches. So look up–no, higher–and you’ll wonder how the building architects and artisans created such beauty so many years ago. Then, to to take in this beauty from another perspective, climb up a tower or two for a view from above. These beautiful old streets go on for miles.

Prague's Jerusalem synagogueThen there’s the Jewish quarter, Josefov, where the absence of Jews is especially haunting given the vibrant community before the war. One of the old synagogues has been transformed into a memorial inscribed with wall after wall of names of Jews who died in the Holocaust. Jews were not truly welcomed back to the city until the end of Communist reign in 1989. No wonder there are so few of our kind living here today.

Classical music abounds in grand performance halls. Don’t forget Prague Castle, which is lit up at night thanks to the generosity of the Rolling Stones, or Strahov Monastery, replete with floor-to-ceiling shelves of ancient books in its stunning libraries. It would be peaceful there if not for the hoards of tourists like us, including those seeking a taste of the craft beer. Imagine monks making beer. Turns out this country is known for its beer, and its beer consumption.

Grover at classical music concert

Finally, not speaking of whipping cream, take in the rich, delicious food, but don’t tell the servers at the beef bar (yes, they exist here) that you’re vegetarian. Even better, try the desserts–the multi-layered honey cake, the blintz-equivalent palacinky, the danish-like kolache (try poppy seed and cheese), and the fruit-filled dumplings. Those Czechs may be overly fond of marzipan, but that is another matter for another day.

Grover eating chocolate cakeI did not realize until I arrived what a vibrant café culture this city has. Take-out cups are the rarity; people sit for hours in cafés, drinking coffee topped with whipped cream, of course, and feasting on that heavy traditional Czech fare or, perhaps, a slice of dessert. Wanting to live this experience firsthand, we visited a well-reputed spot for a hot cider, seating ourselves as is the custom, and reviewing the menus.

Then I realized, to my horror, that there were ashtrays everywhere, and we were in a cloud of smoke. Clearly the research on the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke has not made it this far east. The Czechs are staunch holdouts on smoking in restaurants.

Upon realizing the danger to ourselves, J. and I simultaneously lost our appetites and left without ordering. Call me uptight but I don’t want anyone’s ashes falling in my whipped cream. Why did I care? By then, I’d consumed enough cream to clog all my arteries anyway.

L’Shanah Tovah U’Mitukah, as we say

Apple with a few slices out of it beside bowl with honey

Happy New Year to all my readers. It’s that time of the Jewish year again, folks, the time for reflection and review, the time for atonement for sins against God and against others, and the time for apples and honey.

Rosh HaShanah started at sundown yesterday evening. We Jews wish each other a good and sweet year. (Astound your Jewish friends by repeating the transliteration above.) Dipping apple slices in honey represents the sweet part. I want a sweet year, and I imagine you do too. I think we’ve all earned one.

Let’s start with the apples: I go to the market for the best specimens, which fortuitously happen to be in season. This year we scored MacIntosh apples that reminded me of my childhood. They  were crisp and tart and perfect for the occasion, a different breed than the mushy tasteless ones sold in grocery stores. I bought several of them, just in case I need another taste or two of my childhood over the course of the week.

Then there’s the matter of the perfect honey for the job. There was a lovely harvest festival in our community last August, and a beekeeper was there selling his wares. He had a several varieties of honey, and J. accepted a sample, which she thoroughly enjoyed. This locally produced honey would have been perfect for the annual dipping ritual, don’t you think?

Nope, unfortunately not. Before I partook, I had to ask the beekeeper the dreaded question: “Is it pasteurized?” He told me it wasn’t, and a scornful look flashed across his face. We’d been getting along amiably up to that point, until I gently rejected his sample. I explained that I am immunocompromised–too much information, I know, but his annoyance brought out the apologizer in me.

What’s the problem, you’re thinking? It was just a taste of raw honey. So I could get botulism. No big deal. You’re probably right. I was probably at greater risk eating the delectable freshly made Indian snack offered a few tables over that day. Ordering salad at a restaurant could kill me, and I love sushi, but scratch that option too. If we get right down to it, I probably shouldn’t eat out anywhere ever.

But, in the spirit of the season, I forgive the beekeeper for judging me. He doesn’t know I have leukemia. Heck, he was sharing his wares in an effort to make a sale, and he realized he’d just lost ours. No wonder he was short with me.

I did procure honey for apple dipping, just not the raw product from this beekeeper. I bought cheap generic pasteurized honey from the grocery store so I could dip to my heart’s content. And that I did, last night, with J., at 10 p.m., when I realized to my horror I’d completely forgotten my favourite ritual, well above opening Christmas gifts.

It’s not too late for you, folks. You have until sundown tonight to dip your apples in a bit of honey. Who says this ritual is exclusive to Jews? Jewish or not, you too deserve a good and sweet year. And if all you have on hand is raw honey, go for it. I won’t judge you.

Picture of honeycomb in puddle of honey