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Events 2011-2012

  • Thursday, January 12, 2012 8:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Elaine Marcus spoke about the traditions. She described how Traditions are celebrated differently depending on whether one was raised in the Orthodox or Reformed Judaic Tradition. Also within each family, they decide on how elaborately or simply they want to celebrate the day.

    Elaine related the story of Hannukah:

    Long ago in the land of Judea there was a Syrian king, Antiochus. The king ordered the Jewish people to reject their God, their religion, their customs and their beliefs and to worship the Greek gods. There were some who did as they were told, but many refused. One who refused was Judah Maccabee.
    Judah and his four brothers formed an army and chose as their name the word “Maccabee”, which means hammer. After three years of fighting, the Maccabees were finally successful in driving the Syrians out of Israel and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees wanted to clean the building and to remove the hated Greek symbols and statues. On the 25th day of the month of Kislev, the job was finished and the temple was rededicated.
    When Judah and his followers finished cleaning the temple, they wanted to light the eternal light, known as the N’er Tamid, which is present in every Jewish house of worship. Once lit, the oil lamp should never be extinguished.
    Only a tiny jug of oil was found with only enough for a single day. The oil lamp was filled and lit. Then a miracle occurred as the tiny amount of oil stayed lit not for one day, but for eight days.
    Jews celebrate Chanukah to mark the victory over the Syrians and the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple. The Festival of the Lights, Chanukah, lasts for eight days to commemorate the miracle of the oil. The word Chanukah means “rededication”.

    In America, families celebrate Chanukah at home. They give and receive gifts, decorate the house, entertain friends and family, eat special foods, and light the holiday menorah.

    Lighting the Chanukah Menorah: 

    Each night during Chanukah Jews light candles in a special candelabra called a Menorah. The center candle, called the Shamash, is always the first candle placed in the Menorah and the first candle to be lit each night. The remaining candles are placed and lit in a specific order depending on the night of the celebration.

    When placing candles in the Menorah – the Shamash (center) candle is placed first. Then that night’s candles are placed in the Menorah from right to left.
    When the candles are lit, the Shamash would be lit first and then is used to light that night’s candles – from left to right. And as the candles are lit each night a special prayer is recited.

    The Chanukah Dreidel (Dreidle): 

     The dreidel is one of the best known symbols of Chanukah. A four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side, the dreidel is used to play a fun Chanukah game of chance.

    The letters on the dreidel, Nun, Gimmel, Hey and Shin, stand for the Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which means A Great Miracle Happened There.
    To play the game of dreidel: Two to four players each get a handful of pennies or chocolate money called gelt. The remainder of the pot is left in the middle. The youngest players spins the dreidel and depending on what letter the top lands on, he or she will:
    – SHIN (or PEH) – Lose all of his coins
    – HEY – Win half the pot
    – NUN – Lose his turn, the top passes to the next player.
    – GIMEL – Win the whole pot.

    The dreidel — or Sivivon in Hebrew, from the verb to spin — continues to be passed around the circle until one player has won everyone’s coins. The word dreidel comes from a Yiddish word meaning to turn.
    According to some historians, Jews first played with a spinning top during the rule of the Greek King Antiochus’. In Judea, Antiochus had outlawed Jewish worship, so the Jews would use a game with the spinning top as a ruse to conceal that they were secretly studying Torah.

  • Thursday, January 12, 2012 8:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Anna spoke very fondly and in great detail of her childhood memories growing up in the Polish countryside with her family’s Christmas traditions. Anna briefly mentioned that in spite of the religious oppression caused by Soviet occupation, families quietly maintained their strong religious traditions and passed them on from generation to generation. She mentioned that although she and Danuca were from the East and South of Belarus, the traditions were similar and there was overlap. Danuca was  not able to attend.
    Christmas is a solemn, religious time in Poland. Lent is observed and in her family, Anna and her family typically give up eating meat for 3 days before Christmas. Meals are based around fish. This is a special time as Anna’s father, a fisherman by trade, would fish and bring home fresh carp and herring which Anna’s mother would prepare into special traditional dishes.
    On Christmas Eve, Anna’s family would go into the woods and they would select a pine tree which their father would fell then they would drag it home on a wooden sled to decorate and trim.
    Christmas is not about presents in Poland but more about kinship and feeling grateful. Gifts in her family were oranges, nuts and fruit.

    WIGILIA: On Christmas Eve, Wigilia or Christmas Eve Dinner is served. The Wigilia is a meatless meal. Items that would normally be included in a traditional Wigilia menu include mushroom soup, boiled potatoes (kartofle), pickled herring, meatless Borscht with apples.  For days in advance, the family prepares the traditional foods. The dinner courses are fixed at seven, nine or eleven.
    According to myth, in no case must there be an odd number of people at the table, otherwise it is said that some of the feasters would not live to see another Christmas. A lighted candle in the windows symbolizes the hope that the Godchild, in the form of a stranger, may come to share the Wigilia and an extra place is set at the table for the unexpected guest. This belief stems from the ancient Polish adage, “A guest in the home is God in the home.”.
    At the dinner, there is always a thin layer of hay under the white tablecloth in memory of the God-child in the manger.

    OPLATEK: Before dinner begins, everyone goes to Church to receive the blessed wafer from the priest. Then people exchange good wishes for health, wealth and happiness in the New Year. This is such a deeply moving moment that often tears of love and joy are evoked from the family members who are breaking this symbolic bread.
    In Anna’s small town there were only 500 people. Everyone knew everyone so the whole town would gather at the 500 old year church on December 25th. to meet and exchange good wishes.

    Anna tries to carry on the tradition in the US by taking her son to Church every year to receive the blessed wafer, “OPLATEK”. Anna said that there are three authentic stores in Dorchester Avenue in Boston that she shops at for the traditional Polish dark bread and other Polish delicacies. Anna will share the store names and addresses with us.

  • Thursday, January 12, 2012 8:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Maria and Robin shared the stage and gave a colorful description of the Spanish traditions around the holiday. 

    The Christmas festivities begin on December 8th, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when people start to bring out the decorations. The streets are brightly lit with colorful lights, decorated trees and every store from the shoe store to the butcher store has a Nativity Scene in their front window that is unique.

    Nativity Scene: Central to the Spanish Christmas tradition is the decoration and setting up of the Nativity Scene. The pieces that make up the Nativity Scene are hand-made beautifully crafted pieces handed down in families from generation to generation.
    It is a time for families and friends to share time together and celebrate. Maria explained that every year many families drive into the countryside to gather fresh moss, leaves and ferns which they then use to decorate the Nativity Scene together in their homes.

    The Three Kings: In Spain it is the Three Kings who bring the presents to the children. Kings Day is celebrated on January 5th. There is a parade. People dressed up as the Three Kings hand out sweets to excited children. They represent the three Kings in the Bible who bring gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus.
    In the evening the children light a candle and the families read from the Bible. The children leave a well polished clean shoe under the tree to be filled with gifts by the Kings and a bowl of water for the camels. The children by now would have already written formal letters to the Three Kings telling them whether they have been ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and what they would like for Christmas.
    The next day there is a large family lunch. Dessert is always El Roscon de Reyes. This is a ring shaped cake. Baked into the cake are two objects- a small figure of a king and a dry green bean. Once the cake is served everybody checks their portion in the hopes that they have the king and don’t have the bean. The person who finds the king in their cake is crowned king for the day and wears a crown. The person who finds the bean in their piece of cake must pay for the dinner!

    New Years Eve Tradition: The Spanish ritual on New Year’s Eve is to eat twelve grapes at midnight. Las doce uvas de la suerte, or the 12 grapes of luck is a Spanish tradition that is supposed to bring luck each month of the upcoming year.
    Maria and Robin described the fun and games that surround this activity as people all gather together in a public Plaza trying to swallow twelve grapes in exact timing to the twelve strokes to midnight.
    During her two year stay in Madrid, Robin collected over 100 pieces of unique hand-made sheep figurines. She bought a few of her favorite pieces to show us.

  • Thursday, January 12, 2012 8:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The theme for the CULTURAL EXCHANGE on Thursday January 12, 2012 was Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year celebrations from around the world.

    The program was attended by: Linda Z., Mary Louise H., Elaine M., Lalitha R., Iko B., Robin G., Maria T., Rosemie L., Anna LB, Pauline W., Marie-Alice G.

    A delightful young lady from Mongolia, Tegshee and her daughter saw the notice and joined us for lunch. She is interested in joining the group.

    Holiday Lunch:

    There was a variety of sweet and savory dishes for all to share. These included a rice dish, hardboiled eggs with fish and crackers, potato latkes, home-made Christmas cookies, special Spanish flaky pastry made with almonds (Polvorones), Belgian wafers (gauffres), Indian cream of wheat sweet with cardamom, almonds and raisin (kesari halwa), and much more.

    After lunch, we started the program with Iko welcoming the group and introducing Tegshee, the guest from Mongolia. Following this, Lalitha summarized the format for the Cultural Program and introduced the speakers.

    The common thread that connected all the speakers was the tangible excitement, nostalgia and joy with which they all spoke about their childhood memories. All the speakers’ spoke with great passion and they bought “show and tell” objects and pictures from their respective traditions to liven up the experience. Their enthusiasm was infectious and led to spontaneous interaction and story-telling by the audience members of their personal experiences of Christmas, Hanukkah and the New Year in their own countries.

    • Christmas in Spain
    • Christmas in Poland / Belarus
    • Hanukkah in US / Israel
    • New Year in China

    Happy New Year, Ladies

    Submitted by Lalitha

  • Tuesday, January 10, 2012 8:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On January 10th, we had lunch at Mooo Restaurant before starting our tour at Boston Athenaeum, a privately owned library that houses rare books and artworks.

    Thank you Doris for organizing.

  • Tuesday, December 13, 2011 8:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Just in time for those holiday parties, Anna Nieman Bridal Shop  invited IWCB members for a color analysis event.  Anna says that Nature is the best Artist. We take inspiration from Nature, consciously or unconsciously, in many ways, choosing our colors for make-up or clothes. The power of colors makes it important to choose them wisely and appropriately for each individual and each occasion. Anna demonstrates at this event make-up application and color analysis.

  • Saturday, December 03, 2011 8:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It was a lot of fun to bake some cookies.  Again a successful Cooking morning.

    Thank you Françoise for hosting, and Sam and Sara for also showing us how to make their cookies.

    Everyone brought delicious baked goods to share.

  • Thursday, November 17, 2011 8:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Lunch was at noon on Thursday 17 November, at a special location with spectacular views of the city. The UMass Club is a private club for alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the University. It is located on the 33rd floor of 225 Franklin Street, and features views of Boston Harbor and downtown.

    Thanks to Eka for the photos.

  • Tuesday, November 15, 2011 8:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We met in the lobby of the JFK Library. After our tour, we returned to Chinatown on the Red Line and shared dim sum.  Dim Sum consists of a variety of dumplings, steamed dishes and other treats, both savory and sweet.  

    Thanks to Doris for the photo and for organizing.

  • Monday, November 14, 2011 8:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    During the Open Studio events in Allston November 12, Club members were invited to The Showroom, which is the business location of the very talented IWCB member Linda.  Allston is also home to some interesting ethnic eateries.
    - submitted by Joann

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