BELONGING

Small Acts: The Holiday Traditions That Tie Us Together

By

Keli Oliseh

– VOL. 7

At Venn, we’re big on traditions. They bring Neighbors together, build friendships, and give our communities something to look forward to and share over time. Although holiday traditions vary across our Neighborhoods, a common thread unites them all: Each tradition sparks a small act of kindness.  Here we highlight some of Venn’s favorite holiday traditions and our Neighbors share theirs too.

Sharing Meals Together

There’s no more simple or comforting tradition than gathering around a table to share a meal together. At Venn, we take this tradition to heart with our monthly Dig In Dinners, our version of a Neighborhood potluck. Although these dinners are celebrated year-round, they take on a deeper meaning at the holidays when life can feel especially busy, or especially lonely.

Image of local holiday traditions in Tel Aviv

Neighbors brought pizza, wine, salads of all kinds and a fresh loaf of challah bread to a Friday night Dig In dinner in Tel Aviv.

The tradition was born in Tel Aviv in 2019, inspired, at least in part, by the customary Friday night Shabbat dinners observed traditionally by Jewish families. While there is no religious connotation of our Dig In Dinners, they do offer a warm and intentional way for friends and Neighbors to come together, mingle, relax, and connect. In each neighborhood, Dig In Dinners are informal and different. Some are potlucks, some BYOB. The point is for it to be casual, easy, and welcoming for new Neighbors. 

With the holidays here, it makes us think of other ways food can bring Neighbors and family together. Celeste B., a Venn Neighbor in Kansas City, says, “I stay up all night cooking and cleaning. Holiday dinners are breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We watch movies, especially ‘A Christmas Story’ and people randomly stop by.”

Oz Ganon in Tel Aviv talks about how his family enjoys delicious Sfenj. As Oz explains it, “Sfenj is a Moroccan fried donut, eaten by Moroccan Jews and other Sephardic Jews. The donuts are fried in oil to commemorate the Hanukkah miracle. Usually [during] Hanukkah, mothers would get together and make Sfenj for the holiday dinner where all the family gathers and usually each kid leaves with a plateful for the next day.”

Gift giving is essentially an act of generosity, one that creates joy and connection for families and Neighbors everywhere

Exchanging Gifts

Yes, Black Friday sales and Cyber Monday discount codes have given the tradition of holiday gift-giving a bad rap. But going back to the basics, gift-giving is essentially an act of generosity, one that creates joy and connection for Neighbors everywhere. 

“[My siblings and I] snuck an early gift once as kids,” says, Aerie, a Venn Host. “Since then my mother has made it a tradition to loudly announce her bedtime on Christmas Eve (a terrible actress), knowing we’ll ‘sneak’ one every year. She puts the one we’re allowed to touch front and center so we’re not getting away with anything.”

Ilya Levi, a Venn Neighbor in Tel Aviv, shares, “When our family lights the menorah, the kids get presents from Sevi the giant Dreidel, who brings a gift for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. It’s like a daily Santa Claus.” 

Image of local holiday traditions visiting the elderly tel aviv

Above, a Venn neighbor lights the Hanukkah menorah and share jelly donuts with an elderly member of the community. Small acts like these bring joy and warmth to all during the holidays.

Giving Back

As important, if not more important, than the tradition of giving gifts, is the tradition of giving back at the holidays. At Venn, it’s one of our core values and one we champion especially this time of year. In our communities, Neighbors find ways to give back  by donating, offering in-kind services, or participating in a Venn volunteer or non-profit community event.

In Kansas City, Neighbors gather canned food for community members in need.  In Tel Aviv, Neighbors visit elderly adults, bringing candles, sweet treats and holiday cheer. 

These may be small acts, but they make an meaningful impact on individual lives, strengthening the bonds among Neighbors and their communities.