You’re Jewish. It’s Christmas. Few places are open, so what to do? It’s the annual question.
This year, you can just stay in and celebrate Chanukah, since the final night is on Christmas. But what if you want to go out? Locally, there are more answers than just getting Chinese food and seeing a movie, though that is always a good option.
Here’s a brief guide to what you can do in the Philadelphia area on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Go to the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History’s Being__at Christmas Event
In the late 2010s, the museum changed the name of this event from Being Jewish at Christmas to Being__at Christmas. It wanted to make it more inclusive to Christians looking for something to do later in the day, to people from other religions and to the non-religious, according to Dan Samuels, the museum’s director of public programs.
And the activities on the schedule are fun for the whole family. At 10:15 a.m., there’s an interactive kids concert with bubbles, balloons and puppets. An hour later, the Philadelphia Suns will perform a “1,000+ year old Chinese lion dance” that takes place during the Chinese New Year, according to an email about the event. And in the afternoon, kids and parents can take workshops on hip-hop dance and percussion instruments.
If you buy tickets in advance, your kids can get in for $10, and you can pay $15. The price goes up to $20 for both groups on the day of the event, unless you’re a museum member, in which case you can get in for free.
Find a Light Show
Light shows are often defined not just by resplendence, but by long car lines, too. Avoid those by rolling up on Christmas Eve or Day to displays that remain open despite the holiday.
There are plenty of options in that category. And those include some of the best, like the Holiday Light Show at Shady Brook Farm in Bucks County, which features millions of lights, the Deck the Hall Light Show at Dilworth Park, which illuminates City Hall, and the West Chester Griswolds, or the local family that imitates the Chevy Chase-led unit in National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation” by brightening its home with “more than 100,000 computer-controlled lights,” according to a Visit Philadelphia listing.
Visit Philly also has a full list of light shows that you can visit during the holiday season: visitphilly.com/articles/philadelphia/top-holiday-lights-attractions-in-philadelphia/.
The Christmas Eve Chinatown Dinner
Middle Child Clubhouse, the bar and restaurant on Front Street, and Lee How Fook, the Chinese restaurant on North 11th Street, are co-hosting an event at which you can pay $55 a person and “get everything,” family-style, according to an Instagram post promoting the evening. “Everything,” in this case, means a lot of really good Chinese food, like crab Rangoon nachos and breakfast fried rice, among other items.
Lee How Fook has a 4.3 out of five rating from 224 Google reviews. In that Instagram post, Middle Child Clubhouse called it “hands down, my favorite restaurant in Chinatown.”
The Jewish Christmas Dinner and a Movie Event
Israeli restaurant Zahav’s “traditional Jewish Christmas celebration returns with dinner and a movie at Lilah,” according to an Instagram post promoting the gathering. This event is actually on Dec. 22, but its Christmas theme qualifies it for this list. Lilah is a venue on North Front Street.
The evening will begin with a “four-course feast,” as the post explains, that includes five salads, dim sum dumplings, hot and sour soup, Peking duck, steamed buns and sesame sugar donuts. The movie, which will start a half hour after the dinner, “is a surprise.”
A $150 ticket is for a pair and covers food but not drinks.
Watch “The Fabelmans”
Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” has not done well in theaters since coming out on Nov. 11, making just $8.7 million despite its $40 million budget. It’s the worst-performing movie in the 50-plus-year career of Hollywood’s “most commercially successful director of all time,” as Spielberg’s Wikipedia page describes him.
Yet despite the poor box office performance, the Jewish director’s coming-of-age film based on himself is acclaimed by both viewers and critics. It has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, an 82% rating on Fandango and a 7.9/10 on IMDb. Time’s Stephanie Zacharek called it the best film of 2022. The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane wrote that it was “touched with the madness of love.”
You should be skeptical if only the audience or only the critics like a movie. But if they both like a film, it’s probably worth your time. JE