December is a month for looking back, looking forward, and looking inward. At Impact, our colleagues from cultures around the world will be celebrating in a variety of ways. To honor the diversity of our colleagues and to learn more about the various holidays we celebrate, we asked a few of them to share some favorite memories of this time of year and the traditions that come with it. Take a moment to enjoy a personal look at Hanukkah, Christmas, and Boxing Day.
Hanukkah – December 10-18, 2020
Perri Schwartzman, Senior Business Development Representative, Strategic Accounts in S&M, New York
Hanukkah is a special Jewish holiday because it celebrates the underdog. The Jews were outnumbered yet managed to keep their spirits up, and protect their community and its practices. It took one particular clan called the Maccabees to lead the fight against religious persecution to preserve their heritage. History, however, has a way of repeating itself, so to me, Hanukkah is the time to remember that the Jews are still working and collaborating among various peoples for acceptance and peace like so many other minorities. This is one of the reasons why I’m honored to be part of the diversity, equity, and inclusion team at Impact.
Hanukkah commemorates the miracle of how a small amount of oil burned for eight straight nights while the Maccabees sought. That is why we light candles on the menorah (a candleabrum) and eat foods fried in oil, like latkes and doughnuts). I’m not exactly sure why we receive gifts for Hanukkah, but I assume that it’s the American influence.
Lastly, growing up with grandparents and great grandparents, some of whom survived WWII, I’m very proud of my European-Jewish heritage. During Hanukkah, I continue to celebrate the culture of Judaism for them, particularly my great grandfather, Pépé, who was part of the French Foreign Legion fighting in the resistance.
Food is an integral part of most Jewish holidays, and Hanukkah is no different. During the holidays, I love to make Noodle Kugel — check out this full-proof recipe to get a taste of Jewish tradition.
P.S. If you are interested in learning more about the history of Hanukkah, this is my favorite three-minute music video from the Maccabeats acapella group — it’s pretty funny!
Perri’s Fam Noodle Kugel Recipe
Noodle kugel is a traditional Jewish dish made from egg noodles baked in a sweet or savory custard, which is similar to a bread pudding. We are going to make a sweet one for Hanukkah! There are literally as many recipe variations for kugel as there are Jewish grandmothers who make it: raisins, apples, crushed pineapple, spinach, potato, etc.
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
FOR THE STREUSEL TOPPING
- 3 cups of crushed cornflakes (coarse, sweet or plain, up to you but I use plain!)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
FOR THE KUGEL
- Salt (just a pinch)
- 1 (16 ounce) package wide egg noodles **please cook in advance if you are planning to participate in the virtual demonstration**
- 1 (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 (16 ounce) package of cottage cheese
- 1 pint sour cream
- 1 cup white sugar
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup of raisins (golden or purple or a mixture!)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, cloves (optional, I do a little bit of all)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles until al dente about 8-10 minutes (they will continue to cook in the oven). Drain and cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together cream cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, sugar, and eggs until smooth. Season with a pinch of salt and your preferred spices. Add raisins. Toss mixture with noodles, coating evenly.
Transfer noodle mixture to prepared dish.
Crush the cornflakes (in the bag is easiest). Combine the cornflakes, brown sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter in a medium bowl. Distribute the mixture evenly across the kugel and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Lower the oven to 325 degrees and continue to bake for 45 minutes more. Cool and enjoy!
To reheat, cover with foil and place in a 325°F oven for 20 minutes or so.
Don’t worry about it!
Christmas Day – December 25, 2020
Lara Bredeveldt, Customer Success Manager, Cape Town
When you think of Christmas, what comes to mind? I picture sipping mulled wine next to a crackling fire while snow falls softly outside. And matching Christmas jumpers! Only, Christmas in South Africa is nothing like that. Christmas falls at the beginning of our summer, which, as you can imagine, can get really hot. So, our celebration looks a little bit different.
Our celebration is centered around bringing together family and food (ok, not so different), and despite the weather, usually includes a roast. We spend the morning preparing a veritable feast before everyone comes together for a meal. My favourite Christmas food has to be glazed gammon, potatoes (I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like), and malva pudding with custard.
We pop our Christmas crackers, put on our paper crowns, and read out loud the silly jokes we find inside. At some point, a cousin or an uncle will assume their responsibilities as Father Christmas and hand out the gifts. Soon after, numbers start to dwindle as people disappear into bedrooms and onto couches for naps. For those who are still awake, a rewarding dip in the pool awaits!
As the years pass, it becomes more difficult for everyone to celebrate together, especially now that Christmas gatherings might look a little different because of the pandemic. But, I recall these memories fondly, and I will cherish the moments we get to spend when we can finally be together!
Boxing Day – December 26, 2020
Nicole Daries, Receptionist/Recruitment Coordinator, Cape Town
Boxing Day in Cape Town is known for three things:
- Eating Christmas lunch leftovers: It’s like Christmas, but without the new outfits and “on fleek” hairdos. Although we stuff ourselves on Christmas day with every color of the rainbow on our plates, there still seems to be enough food left over to have a feast the next day. I remember everyone would go to my grandparents’ house in Cape Town with whatever we had left over and we would have Christmas part two at their house. Those days were really the best days.
- Resting Day: Because the days before Boxing Day usually include lots of hours spent prepping so that Christmas lunch can be a great success for the entire family, my family usually gets together and spends the day resting. Growing up, I could never understand how the adults could come together and then after lunch, literally every person over the age of 20 takes a three-hour nap in the living room! Doesn’t matter if you’re sleeping on a chair, couch, or blow-up mattress on the floor. As I grew older, I understood how divine that three-hour nap really is.
- Family time: Games, karaoke, and champagne galore. That pretty much describes what we’d do after our lunch and naps on Boxing Day. There were plenty of grandkids playing games, laughing, and having fun with cousins. The adults would never miss a chance at grabbing the karaoke mic and singing their hearts out with a glass of “champers” in the other hand.
With this pandemic, Boxing Day might not be the same this year. However, the years of fond memories with family that I carry with me will be enough to get me through a possible “Lockdown Boxing Day.”
Want to work with people from around the world in a culture where diversity is celebrated? Come find a place here at Impact.