Christmas and hanukkah sometimes fall rather close to each other. But this year it was a perfect match - the first night of Hanukkah was Christmas Eve, and the last night of Hanukkah was New Year's Eve. A pretty dense week, eh?
Of course, we were not going to stop having a Christmas tree, with our Chinese (as in bought-in-Bejing) lights, Canadian baubles, Icelandic elves... as gaudy a tree as there can be!
Christmas Eve we were having dinner at my sister's. But before that we had a day around the Roma Norte neighbourhood where, while enjoying a nice draft beer, a man came by to offer some songs called sones jarochos. Enjoying these requires speaking very good Spanish, I'm afraid, as the lively music incorporates improvised verses that make reference to someone in the audience or the person requesting the song. These verses tend to be very witty, funny, and more than often a tad offensive. This was a pretty cool pre-Christmas Eve moment.
Once at my sister's, it was eating non-stop, as is usually the case. I think I mention this every year, but in Mexico the most important dinner is on Christmas Eve, and not on Christmas itself. Also, people tend to have dinner really late, around 10pm or even later. Among many delicious things, there were two items I'm incredibly glad to see at the table every Christmas - cod northern Spanish style (bacalao) and seepweed with mole sauce and potatoes and shrimp (romeritos). Both are very popular in the centre of Mexico, and attest to the very mestizo character of the city. I took horrible pictures of my plates, though, so your imagination will have to do (aided by a leftovers photo further ahead).
Something I hadn't seen in ages were Bengal flares, which were incredibly popular when I was a child, along with a number of fire-crackers made for personal consumption. Looking at the flares at my sister's patio brought many memories from so many years ago...
It was a a nice, pleasant family reunion. And since I never know for sure how many more of those I'll have before moving country, I really appreciate sharing these dinners with my sister and dad.
Now, clichéd as this may sound, my habibi and me went for Chinese on Christmas. I mean, most everything is closed during the day, right? But the Chinese restaurants in the area east of Metro Viaducto are so authentic you are likely to find more signs in Chinese than Spanish! We settled for one called Jing Teng, with oodles of dimsum to choose from!
We got to practice our Chinese, we had delicious dumplings, we swooned over our traditional Chinese greens, and oohed and aahed with the mapo tofu and zhajiang noodles. We ordered way too much for the two of us, but we were oh so happy!
With Christmas behind, we could now focus on our Hanukkah dinner! On the 26th, just a day after Christmas. We were going to offer friends and family some now traditional stuff - borscht, mulled wine, vegan cheesecake... But instead of latkes I asked the habibi we take a risk and try to prepare Karaite kybynlar, the pastries my mom used to make and which she learned from her Odessan grandmother.
It was our very first attempt ever at make them, I had no first-hand experience with my mom (I was never in the kitchen as a child while she made them), and on top of that I wanted to make them vegan... Then we decided to bake them in the oven instead of frying them like my mom used to... Well, they did not look much like what my mom used to bake, but I can definitely say they were delicious and even pretty!
So, now we can include another item in our repertoire - vegan kybynlar! Yay!
Needless to say, this was a wonderful evening, with family, friends that had been to our Hanukkah dinners before, and friends who were with us for the first time. And my vegan cheesecake is always a big success, if I may say so, LOL. And this year it was accompanied by some amazing alfajores we had brought from Buenos Aires!
Since I look at Hanukkah from a very secular and cultural point of view, it's a very nice thing to be reviving traditions and to keep building on an long-intuited but only rather recently asserted identity - Yiddishkeyt.
Now, having these two feasts could only mean one thing - amazing leftovers! And most multi-cultural ones! On the 27th we helped ourselves to this most beautiful - if slightly unaesthetic - of plates, with romeritos (Mexico, pre-Hispanic), bacalao (Spain) and kybynlar (Ukraine). So, so good!
Like I mentioned before, the last night of Hanukkah fell on New Year's Eve. We lit the eight candles of the hanukkiyah, and enjoyed the last night of this ritual. I love how it creates such a peaceful ambiance, and also how unreligious it can look, which makes it a lot easier for me to incorporate as a home ritual.
But once the candles were out, we started getting ready, 'cause we were going to party at the Ángel de la Independencia! They were closing part of Reforma Avenue, and there were going to be public concerts, then fireworks, then more music...
We were not that crazy about the music before the countdown, but the fireworks? Awesome! They were fantastic, and the monument (the Ángel) worked wonderfully as background! It was a really nice show, honestly. And right after that? A concert by the Ángeles Azules! I really wasn't sure who they were, by name, but once they started playing I recognized their songs! And so we danced and sang what little we knew, with the rest of the people, and with quite a few foreigners! I was personally very glad to see people from so many countries having such a fun time by the Ángel!
Once we felt it was enough partying, we walked home. It was just so pleasant, walking along Reforma Avenue, the night cool but not cold, the habibi and me chatting and reflecting on our experiences in this city... Nice.
A new tradition?
Next morning I had a very specific request for the habibi. Fortunately I had warned him in advance, so we'd have the necessary ingredients. For breakfast on January 1st I wanted... chilaquiles! Basically, friend tortilla chips with tons of salsa, beans, onion, avocado... So simple, and so good! I think I want to do this every year!
And that's how we finished the year. Surrounded by friends, good food, new experiences in our city, and new traditions.