Friday night Shabbat dinners were one of my favourite things about living in Israel. I’m not Jewish – but every weekend, without fail, a family would invite me to break bread with them come sunset on Yom Sheeshee.
The candles would get lit, the blessings would get uttered and we would all welcome that well deserved day of rest. Shabbat is that time of the week to contemplate the spiritual aspects of life and spend time with loved ones.
Eating out on a Friday night was unheard of. Especially in Jerusalem. So I would stay in with whoever was kind enough to adopt me for that weekend.
I never knew what language to expect at the dinner table. It was usually English or Hebrew, but I’ve sat at dinner tables where I couldn’t understand a word that came out of anyone’s mouth.
Yiddish. Russian. Arabic. French. Ladino. Amharic.
We didn’t even have Google Translate back then.
But what I did understand was there was always food. Lots of it. There was usually wine or vodka. And it was always a good time – as long as there was no gefilte fish on the table.
Definitely an acquired taste. At least there was cholent to make up for it.
I usually brought pomegranate wine as a gift. If you haven’t tried it – you really should.
After dinner, I would walk home, as is the cultural norm, and spend the next day contemplating life, the nature of the universe and whether I believed there is a higher power.
I would also sleep A LOT.
Seven years later, I’m living in Japan.
Friday night nomikais or drinking parties, are the norm for a lot of working people in this part of the world.
The Japanese don’t usually invite people to their homes and nomikais always take place at restaurants or izakayas.
Sometimes you have to pay for it, and sometimes your company does. On the occasions that I’ve had to pay for it – it’s usually been under 5000 yen (US$50) for food and…all you can drink.
Before you get too excited, there is a time limit of 2 to 3 hours.
The implementation of an ‘all you can drink’ or nomihodai as it is known in Japanese, wouldn’t go down well in most countries. There are just way too many risks involved. Unruly drunken behaviour in public and alcohol-related violence is commonplace in many countries I’ve been to.
But in Japan, I’ve rarely seen it. Nomikais are that time to unwind from the pressure of the work week and really get to know your colleagues.
After the first party, there’s a second karaoke party, and then there’s the late night ramen before making a quick dash for the last train home.
Not a good idea for the waistline, but there’re a few things more enjoyable than an evening that turns into a late night that goes on and on.
I can never resist a bowl of spicy ramen. After a week of structure and discipline, I finally get to let go.
Nomikais or Shabbat dinners?
Which would you pick this weekend?
As a third culture kid, I never have to choose.
Friday night Shabbat dinner. Saturday evening nomikai.
Shabbat Shalom and Otsukaresamadesu.
Have a good weekend.
I know I will.