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However you choose to celebrate the holidays
However you choose to celebrate the holidays, I hope that yours are joyous ones. Images: jewishfed.org, lutherburbankcenter.org/event, sonomavalley.com/event

A World of
Christmas and Chanukah

in Sonoma County

Nov 26, 2019
by Christopher Kerosky, Kerosky, Purves & Bogue, LLP, Sonoma County Human Rights Commissioner

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One does not need to be an immigrant to enjoy the world’s holiday traditions this time of year in Sonoma County.  Here’s a sampler:

MEXICAN

Throughout the North Bay, Christmas is honored by families in the rich tradition of their native Mexico.  One distinctive feature of Mexican Christmas is Las Posadas, a series of processions and parties lasting from December 16th to 24th.  Children lead the procession carrying candles and paper lanterns. 

One can enjoy a bit of Mexican Christmas this season on December 13th at 7 pm at the Posada Navideña Dance performance at the Luther Burbank Center. Photo: lutherburbankcenter.org/event

Christmas Eve revolves around a large family dinner, often held after a late night Catholic mass.   On this night, Mexicans traditionally serve bacalao, a dried cod dish cooked with onions and tomato sauce, or a stew-like dish called revoltijo de romerita with potatoes.  For dessert, bunuelos, a fried pastry topped with sugar or syrup.  Gifts are opened at midnight. 

One can enjoy a bit of Mexican Christmas this season on December 13th at 7 pm at the Posada Navideña Dance performance at the Luther Burbank Center.   Posada Navideña showcases the beautiful holiday folk culture of Mexico through dance, music, and song. For more information, go to  lutherburbankcenter.org

ITALIAN

Italian-Americans often celebrate Christmas Eve with a collection of seafood dishes known as the Festa dei Setti Pesci or Feast of the Seven Fishes. Photo: Freeimages.comItalian-Americans often celebrate Christmas Eve with a collection of seafood dishes known as the Festa dei Setti Pesci or Feast of the Seven Fishes.  The tradition was brought over with immigrants from Southern Italy in the 19th century.  Then on Christmas Day, there is another huge meal including salumi, ravioli  and, for dessert, a fruit-cake known as panettone.

In Sonoma County, there is an annual Italian Christmas Festival sponsored by the North Bay Italian Cultural Foundation.  This year, it’s on December 7th 10 am – 3 pm.  It features a Christmas market like those common in Italy, with artisan vendors, Italian cafe, wine and beer bar and live Italian music.  There will even be an exhibit of the history of Italian immigrants in Sonoma County  For more info, www.nbicf.org.

JEWISH

This time of year, Jews celebrate Hanukah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights that commemorates the 2d century B.C. Jewish uprising against the Maccabees.  Hanukah begins this year on the evening of December 22nd. 

The Charles Schulz Museum hosts a free Chanukah celebration on December 8th called Hands On Chanukah Family Celebration. Photo: jewishfed.orgJewish families honor the holiday with lighting the menorah and reciting prayers. Children often play the dreidel,  a spinning top game. Latkes, a fried potato pancake is probably the best-known Hanukkah food. The dish originates in Eastern Europe and was transported to America by waves of Jewish immigrants last century.  Blintzes are often served for dessert.

The Charles Schulz Museum hosts a free Chanukah celebration on December 8th called Hands On Chanukah Family Celebration.  There will be many activities for kids including candle-making, dreidel games and a live interactive performance with the Octopretzel Children’s Musical Troupe. More info at  jewishfed.org

IRISH

In Ireland, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are celebrated with big meals, gift giving and for the religious, Catholic mass.  But the Irish also celebrate the day after Christmas – St. Steven’s Day or known secularly as “Boxing Day”-- traditionally a day for football matches and horse racing.  Then on January 6th, there is the Epiphany, and yet more holiday parties on what some Irish call “the Second Christmas”.

The traditional Irish-American Christmas meal is not too different from the common American holiday fare: roast turkey and stuffing, baked ham, potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce.   Dessert is often Christmas pudding.

The Green Center is hosting a celebration of Irish Christmas this year: Danú, An Emerald Isle Christmas. photo: sonomavalley.com/event

Music is such a large part of Irish life and equally at Christmas.  The Green Center is hosting a celebration of Irish Christmas this year: Danú, An Emerald Isle Christmas.   It features the Irish musical ensemble, Danú, vocals by Nell Ní Chróinín and Irish step-dancers. It takes place on December 13th at 7:30p at Weill Hall on the Sonoma State campus.  Don’t miss it.

RUSSIAN

Christmas in Russia is traditionally celebrated on January 7th rather than December 25th because the Russian Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar, rather than the Roman one as we do.  Often Russian-Americans enjoy a long holiday season running from Christmas eve to January 10th. 

Russians will often fast on Christmas eve, until the first star has appeared in the sky.  Then there is a feast to break the fast, often consisting of 12 dishes, one for each disciple of Christ.  These include borsch (beetroot soup), sauerkraut, fried mushrooms and salad.  Then there is a midnight service at the Russian Orthodox Church, followed by another large meal on Christmas Day.

The Moscow Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker includes world-class artists, over 200 costumes, impressive sets, and of course Tchaikovsky’s famous score. Photo: lutherburbankcenter.org/event

Nothing symbolizes Russian Christmas more than the Nutcracker ballet.  This year you can enjoy a performance of the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker right here in Sonoma County.  It takes place at 3 pm on December 23rd.  The Moscow Ballet performance includes world-class artists, over 200 costumes, impressive sets, and of course Tchaikovsky’s famous score.  Get tickets at  lutherburbankcenter.org.

However you choose to celebrate the holidays, I hope that yours are joyous ones. ¡Feliz Navidad! Buon Natale! Happy Hanukah! Nollaig Shona! Счастливых праздников! Happy Holidays!

Immigrant Stories by Christopher Kerosky

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