Dim Sum and Star Wars: “Jewish Christmas” and Holidays in the Industry

“Hey, so we’re closed on Christmas Day, right?”
”Huh? Yeah, of course.”
”Well… there’s orders going out the next morning. If we’re not going to be here, who’s going to make them?”


Bakers necessarily need to plan for a few days in the future. Especially when you have wholesale accounts expecting pastries early in the morning. Someone dropped the ball somewhere.

“Uhh… okay, don’t worry, we’ll think of something.”

Well, we thought of something first.

As much faith as I have in our managers to get on the same page and work everything out, I also need to expect I’ll be called in on Christmas. I’m cool with that- always have been. I’m Jewish, after all- it’s not my holiday. In the past, I wold always clean up on holiday pay covering for non-Jews that wanted to be home.

If Christmas means anything to me right now, or if I’m slightly annoyed at the prospect I’ll be asked to work, it’s because

  • This is something that should’ve been sorted out beforehand.
  • I have loved ones that Christmas means something to- and I mean something to them.

As such, “Jewish Christmas-“ the bizarre custom in which Jewish people go out for Chinese food and a movie on Christmas Day- has always been a bit more than a joke to me. It’s a fun thing my wife and I can do that recognizes a special day, and also how meaningless the idea of holidays- or special days of most stripes- are to people who work in the service industry.

Someone else is still working while you are enjoying your days off. Remember to be nice.

Bringing news of this development home on my Friday, Emily thinks for a bit and says “Tell you what- let’s just do our Jewish Christmas tomorrow, and if you don’t get called in on ACTUAL Christmas, we can just stay home and be cozy.”

Sounds like a plan.

“Wow, it’s not as packed as I thought!”

The line to get dim sum at HK Cafe is worse than we expected, but not as bad as we feared. It’s only a Friday afternoon, after all- but we’re not used to walking into this restaurant without having an hour-long line.

We went the “food first, then movie” route for today- we’d have to leave the restaurant in time to make our movie showing, but we’d also be full and not spend more money on snacks at the theater.

We get shown to a table after a short wait, and carts piled with plates and steambaskets roll past us. Shrimp dumplings, soup dumplings, fried noodles, way more buns than was probably smart for us… but hey- it was a special day.

Chinese food was one thing that was always super special to us in Philadelphia. Both of us remembered getting dim sum with our parents, and visiting Philly’s Chinatown for our favorite soup dumplings when we were dating. Since living in Portland, we’ve tried to go to a different Chinese place every year. Currently, the reigning favorite is Shandong in the Hollywood District, but there’s good places all over if you know the right questions to ask.

As we sit and munch on a couple dumplings and sip the surprisingly good tea (we’re both a little used to indifferent green teabags, but this was a really decent loose-leaf Jasmine), Em and I got to nerd out about food for a bit. It seemed like all the carts were offering something “brand new! Very good, you should try!”

Inevitably, we tried. Giant spherical, but paper-thin- fried pumpkin pastries were interesting, to be sure. The translucent, triangular steamed dumpling filled with “something mushroom” were rich and earthy, steaming hot but tasted cool, with squeaky bits of mushroom suspended in some kind of brown gravy. I finished them off- for Em, it was a texture thing.

As we ate and tried figure out exactly what it was we were enjoying, one of the cart-rollers got into a sudden loud discussion with her manager right over our heads. The conversation seemed to be about the server running out of the kitchen without a certain pile of baskets, and the server saying they weren’t ready yet.

Chinese food, mysterious squeaky bits, and a loud conversation happening right over our heads… Em and I grinned at each other. We may as well have been back in Philly. People really are the same all over…

As we pack up the remainder of our food and pay, we realize that a little walk would REALLY do us well before we sit in a theater for three hours. Em looked around the shopping plaza and thought of something:

“Hey hun, why don’t we walk down to that Ross? I could use the walk, and I can finally buy some new gloves. Then we’ll get drinks at the Dollar Tree and sneak them into the theater.”
I knew I married this woman for a reason.

“Yeah, just looked at the line… that isn’t happening.”

The line for the registers at the Ross wormed through the aisles and reached practically to the back of the store. There was no way in hell we were going to stand in that line for a pair of gloves.

“Serves us right for trying to do any shopping in person the Friday before Christmas.”
”Yeah, no kidding… So, wanna just sniff all the candles and leave?”

“… I knew I married you for a reason.”

We didn’t buy any, but just marveled at the variety of tones “gardenia” and “midnight” can take between cheap candle companies.

We ended up buying popcorn AND drinks at the theater, despite our best efforts. It’s a double-special occasion now… Jewish Christmas, and the end of the Star Wars saga.

No, I won’t spoil anything here, or even really give my opinion. I’ll just say it was a good time to watch, and really the only way a nearly-fifty-year franchise could have ended.

Now I am home again. Em is lounged on the couch with the cat, working on her latest fanfic. I’m in my rocking chair, having lately housed a couple of the leftover sausage rolls from lunch. In a moment, I will publish this blog post, put on a podcast, pour some scotch, and try to finish knitting the Christmas presents I’ve been working on.

Even when we rest, someone else somewhere is working. I’m taking one of my rests now, while others- the folks at the theater, my coworkers at the bakery, the people at the restaurant- work to make that day restful for myself and others.

Initially, I wrote this post just to express the reality of holidays for folks in my industry. We all knew what we signed up for, we’re not asking for pity.

A little awareness, understanding, and kindness, though… that’s not a big ask from anyone. We work, and hopefully every now and then, we get to enjoy some of the life we’ve worked for.

Happy Holidays, and

Stay Classy,

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