All-Purpose Celebratory: Festive without Symbols

Foodie Friday

Dec 23, 2011 by

Growing up Jewish I never had a Christmas tree and did my share of  begging for the beautiful ornaments and sparkly lights.

My parents rigorously opposed the ‘Chanukah Bush’ concept, countering my insistence that I would have one of my own when I left home with smug assurance that I wouldn’t do that.  They were wrong for decades: I spent the fall semester of my senior year in college making hand-beaded ornaments to hang on the tree in my boyfriend’s apartment. We still lit Chanukah candles, and I justified it because his roommates weren’t Jewish.

Half a decade later, when I lived in San Diego, I had a tree of my own with ornaments collected from trips to Mexico. I continued collecting and amassed a beautiful international array of ornaments.

And then, right around my 35th birthday, I realized I couldn’t have a tree of my own anymore. It didn’t feel right.  Much as I loved the lights and the wonderful ornaments, I needed to decorate in a way that was festive without being tied to a particular holiday. I freely admit that the majority of Chanukah decorations, blue and white, or silver and gold, never pleased me aesthetically.

Then, while living in Victoria, British Columbia, I discovered the non-denominational super festive decoration I wanted: Chinese paper garlands!

I hang them from the light over my dining table, swags of them going to the corners of the rooms. I open them and pile them in bowls. I drape them at door entries. They are colorful and beautiful and not all that expensive. I give them as gifts and people use them year round for their own celebrations.

My choices for what I feed people during my annual Chanukah party changed as well. I used to make my grandmother’s sweet and sour meatballs to serve along with the traditional latkes – potato pancakes.

But when my daughter became a vegetarian 15 years ago, I needed another main dish for the party. I developed a recipe for Spanakopita without filo that has been the center of the table ever since. It can be warm or even room temperature, so you can focus on other foods, like getting your latkes fresh from the pan!

Guess it proves my leanings toward diversity: Chinese garlands, Greek main dish, Easter European latkes and all the love in my life.

Spanakopita for a Crowd


2 bunches green onions or 2 white onions, chopped

2-3 T. Olive oil

2 bags frozen chopped spinach

1 bunch fresh dill

1 dozen eggs

1 Qt. Cottage cheese

12 oz. – 1 lb. Feta cheese

Salt & Pepper


Sautee the onions in olive oil until soft.

Add spinach and cook a bit until spinach defrosts and loses its moisture.

Chop dill in processor.

Add eggs and cottage cheese and pulse until well mixed.

Add feta and pulse until cheese is in small chunks – don’t make it smooth. (You may have to do the eggs and cheese mixture in separate batches if the processor bowl isn’t big enough.)

Add salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, mix the egg mixture with the spinach mixture until well blended.

Pour into large buttered casserole (I use a large 17”X12” oval) and bake for an hour at 375.

Top should be nicely browned and a knife comes out clean.

Let sit for at least ½ hour so it sets and can be cut easily.

Should yield 16 or more 3 inch squares.

About the Author

Rebecca Crichton Has Written 40 Articles For Us!

I try to stay aware of one main concept: We see things through different lenses. We get caught in our own belief systems and most of us are pretty attached to being right. I am one of those inveterate Life Long Learners. I like new ideas, new experiences, new people, new challenges.
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