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Dreaming of a green Christmas: Bert Stratton

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Nela Park 2011 Holiday Lights
Christmas trees at Nela Park are OK. A Christmas tree at home is not OK, writes Bert Stratton. (Plain Dealer file)
By Bert Stratton | Cleveland Plain Dealer
(Editor’s note: Stratton is Jordan Rose’s uncle.)
Holiday-season extravaganza! Three-for-one sale! Hanukkah, Black Friday today and I’m dreaming of a green Christmas.

I have this dream about a green Christmas every year around now. My wife says I’m mean-spirited and Scrooge-ish to wish for a green Christmas. I don’t think so. I’m Jewish and I like a mild December.

My mother once tried to bring a tiny silver Christmas tree into the house. My dad said no. So I grew up Christmas tree-less. But I’m not scarred. In fact, I’m in favor of “goodwill toward men” and all that. And I try to be environmentally correct: thinking green.

I took my then 4-year-old son to the May Co. on the Heights in 1985 to see Uncle Dreidel, a middle-aged guy dressed up like Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof.” My son and I caught up with Uncle Dreidel in the luggage department, where he was pricing suitcases. He didn’t have elves, so he needed the suitcases. Uncle Dreidel gave my son a dreidel.

You wouldn’t believe the anti-Uncle Dreidel sentiment in the Cleveland Jewish News that year. One headline read: “Uncle Dreidel Unneeded.” I wrote a pro-Uncle Dreidel letter. My headline — written by an editor — was “There are worse uncles than Uncle Dreidel.” I said Uncle Dreidel was harmless — the more Jewish uncles the better. Hanukkah can’t hold a candle to Christmas, so bring on Uncle Dreidel! Bring on the Maccabees too!

Tonight I’ll light the candles and say the prayers for Hanukkah. This week my klezmer band, Yiddishe Cup, will play Hanukkah parties. I’ll be latked-out by Sunday. (Latkes are potato pancakes.)

I wouldn’t mind playing a Christmas party. I’ve got nothing against Christmas parties — as long as there’s no snow. Yiddishe Cup once played a “holiday party” at an office where everybody asked for Christmas carols.

I said no. I hadn’t started a band with a name like Yiddishe Cup to play “Silent Night.” We played “Hava Nagila” and “Fiddler on the Roof” tunes, plus  “Feliz Navidad” in Spanish. Spanish was OK — not as good as Yiddish — but there aren’t that many Christmas songs in Yiddish.

One Christmas I went to a party on West Boulevard where a 15-woman Ukrainian choir walked in and caroled. We drank homemade plum wine and ate cookies. I played a Ukrainian sirba (fast song) with the band.

Maybe I’ll drive by the Christmas light display at Nela Park in East Cleveland.  My dad was fine with Nela Park. Christmas trees at Nela Park, OK; Christmas tree at home, not OK.

Hold the snow.

Compromise: Bring on the snow. Goodwill toward men, like I said. But can we agree to keep the snowfall under four inches?

Bert Stratton, of Cleveland Heights, plays clarinet in the Yiddishe Cup klezmer band, manages rental property as his day job and is author of the blog “Klezmer Guy: Real Music & Real Estate” (klezmerguy.com).
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  • Published: 6 years ago on November 29, 2013
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  • Last Modified: November 29, 2013 @ 9:35 am
  • Filed Under: Rose Law Group

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