STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
You don’t celebrate Christmas and feel left out? You do celebrate the holidays, but want something else fun to do on Christmas Day, when most places are closed? The National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) may be your answer. For more than 30 years, they’ve offered “Being ___ at Christmas,” a day of fun for everyone.
Emily August, Director of Public Programs, said in a telephone interview that the event used to focus on “Being Jewish at Christmas.” But the fill-in-the-blank change was made to “serve visitors of all backgrounds – whoever you are, whatever you want to do or not do, come here,” she said.
The family-friendly event is filled with activity. There’s face painting, crafts, music, and the museum’s galleries are open, too. August said it’s a day for people who don’t celebrate Christmas, people who do and yet want something else to do that morning or afternoon. It’s for families with blended traditions or those from other cultural heritages. And it’s for all ages.
Kids can do a make-and-take craft with staff from The Clay Studio featuring self-drying clay so no kiln-firing is required. The creation they’ll make this year: a dove.
“It’s a universal symbol of peace that’s important to people of all backgrounds,” August said. “Kids can put whatever they want on it. It’s going to be meaningful.”
For the older kids (or kids at heart), the museum’s also showing films featuring the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers, she said. It’s a bustling day of fun.
“In the morning, it’s this sea of little kids,” she said. “By noon, the littlest ones need naps and the older ones take over. It’s a vibrant day at the museum. It’s rewarding to see kids experiencing it.”
And it fits with the museum’s mission, she said.
“It’s a welcoming, inclusive space for visitors of all backgrounds, especially on this day,” she said.
Alex Mitnick of Alex & The Kaleidoscope will perform with percussionist Daniel Johnson. The duo will lead musical games, percussion jams, and group dances. They’ll perform traditional seasonal songs like “Frosty the Snowman” and original tunes like “Insect Tourists.” Mitnick said in a telephone interview that he’s looking forward to it.
“I think it’s a unique opportunity to spend family time together, particularly if you don’t celebrate Christmas at home,” he said. “Our culture and our society have a calendar – kids are home from school and parents are off from work. It’s a family time.”
As the father of a two year old and a four month old, he knows how important that is and likes that he can help families have fun together.
“Life’s crazy and moments like that are rare,” he said. “I like having a chance to facilitate a joyous time for a few hours for people.”
His music is easy to sing and dance to, he said, and he tries to inspire people while having a good time. Mitnick, who also works as a teacher when not on the road, loves the healing aspects of music and the way it creates community. He hopes that his part in the event at NMAJH will help people experience that.
“We’re in a tumultuous time,” he said. “You realize how precious life is and how fast time flies. Marking the years with traditions like the holidays gives meaning to life. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you do, how much money you make. What matters is who you share life with.”
Along with August, Mitnick hopes a lot of people will come to experience “Being ____ at Christmas.”
“It’s a good time to get out,” he said. “Get away from the TV. Dance. Clap. Just be together.”