Monday, August 16, 2010

Three Days...Heaven or Hell? You choose.

This year yom tov falls out so that it heads into Shabbos, giving us what we refer to as "three-day" yom tov. For some people, the groans have already started regarding this. There are a number of complaints of the "practical" variety, and a number that aren't.

In the practical vein, you might hear that shopping, preparing and storing the amount of food needed puts a strain on resources. You might hear that eating seven festive meals in three days strains our ability to provide something different at each meal. You'll hear that eating that many large meals in close order is not healthy and results in upset digestive systems, never mind weight gain. I've heard, when the calendar has come out like this, that we're going to run out of clothes before we run out of yom tov.

Then there is the following: spending three days together with no chance for a respite has the makings of a stick of dynamite with a lit match next to it. As much as families may love each other, un-relieved proximity can be mentally/emotionally wearing. Maybe you might, perhaps, make it through Rosh Hashanah packed in together, but by the time you reach the last days of Sukkot there are some whose attitudes can best be described as desperate to get it all over with.

I have heard before how some people miss Shabbos when the calendar comes out like this. When it comes as the tag-end of yom tov, for some its specialness is lost.

And yet, I have also heard those who look forward to these three-day occurrences. They love the idea of being together with family for an extended time period. They love the idea of sitting down at the table together for many meals instead of only a few. They love the idea that Shabbos has company, two connected joyous celebrations.

What makes the attitudes so different when it comes to a three-day yom tov? I believe a lot of it is in how we prepare ourselves for those three days, practically and emotionally. Yes, having X number of people in one house for three days could lead to some friction--so what have you done to prepare for that contingency? How can you build in some "neutral corners" and some private or down time? As to the practical, what can you do now, ahead, so that you aren't extra frazzled in those few days before yom tov starts and on yom tov itself?

Then ask yourself this: is it really necessary to have seven different menus for those seven meals? Is it really necessary that all dishes at any given meal be different from those served at a different meal? Before you make up those yom tov menus ask yourself the really hard question: are you looking to impress someone or to feed someone?

How our families will get through yom tov will depend in large part on how the balabusta in the house sets things up. A little thinking now can avoid a lot of bad feelings later on. Do you really want the only statement you can make after all the holidays are over to be "I lived through it"? You want a heavenly holiday? What you do between now and then, the plans you make, any chores taken care of now, spending some time in thought, can truly make the difference between heaven and hell. Your choice.


LoZ said...

as long as you're listing the groans before a 3-day chag, add

1) so that explains why this year my son's school give off not just erev sukkot but even erev-erev sukkot?

2) 3 days of long mornings in shul

3) 3 days of the rabbi's speeches (how does he even come up with so much to talk about?)

LoZ (Resurrected) said...

4) if you live in a small apartment and the weather is bad, 3 days of being couped up with the kids

tesyaa said...

It's not natural - yom tov sheini itself is not natural or necessary (although I know even in Israel RH is a 3-day yom tov this year). It seems like this isn't what the Torah intended for us.

As LOZ says, it's tough on little kids on their parents. For everyone else, there are probably a lot of enjoyable aspects.

Tuvi said...

I know that lots of frummie jews argue with the findings of science but can anyone argue that we don't know how today to measure time down to the millionth of a second? We know exactly when yom tov will start in Israel so why do we still hold the second day of yom tov? If the purpose for having that second day of yom tov has been eliminated why do we still have it?

Doesn't matter how light my wife cooks, by the time we see the table set again for Shabbos nobody is hungry anymore. Everyone just picks at what is served.

Sarah said...

This is the first time that I will be making yom tov in my own home and hearing all the comments about how hard a 3 day yom tov is is scaring me.Any suggestions about those 7 meals and on how to organize things?

JS said...

For me, the hardest part is getting cooped up for 3 days in a small house with the entire family. I wouldn't care about a 3 day yom tov if I could just go back and forth from my own home. I hate packing and I hate shlepping suitcases. When we go to my in-laws there simply isn't enough room for everyone. Everyone is on top of everyone else and the house is one of those homes where someone whispers in a far off bedroom and the whole house can hear it. It's just too much. And if the weather is bad and you can't even go out for a walk, it's just torture. I miss the privacy and comfort of my own home and my own bed.

I second what everyone else said before, there is simply no need for 2 day yom tovs and it's ridiculous we still have them. My vacation days are shot and I'm going to have to work twice as hard in September if I hope to even get half as much done. Not sure what I would do if we had school-age kids. A few friends told us their kids only have 6 or 7 school days in all of September.

As for the meals, in my humble opinion there's no need for 7 "festive" meals. I don't know how anyone can eat large meal after large meal, especially when one usually follows the other by maybe 4-5 hours. A light lunch or dinner is a smart idea for many reasons, but at least for health and sanity in preparation.

Oh, and I heard anecdotally that next year is also all 3 day yom tovs. FUN!!!

tesyaa said...

Sarah - stick with one or two main dishes that you can make in quantity and serve, and vary side dishes if your family needs variety.

As Tuvi says, you don't need much for Shabbos. Don't plan big spreads for the third day.

In my family we make half the meals milchik because we can't eat so much meat. I find lasagna or macaroni and cheese casseroles work well, especially if there are kids.

And definitely see the Mother in Israel/Cooking Manager blogs for more suggestions.

Miami Al said...

I love the 3 day festivities, but you have to go in with the understanding of what makes them enjoyable to you. My favorite schedule in the Shabbat/Sunday Yom Tov, it creates a whirlwind month, my non-Frum friends forget I exist, but I'm able to prepare and enjoy.

Secrets to an enjoyable 3-dayer... from our household.

1. Light dinners -- you are eating late, you ate earlier, no reason to over indulge. Reheated meat from lunch w/ pita and salads makes for a nice dinner after a long day, is relaxing, and let's you clean up and have time to settle everyone down for bed.

2. Don't expect EVERYTHING to be all new. Work up side dishes/salad sides that you can use for all 7 meals. Prep them through Chag as the meals go, and add one new entree per meal, but don't try to do 7 fresh ones.

3. Grilled lunch -- instead of turning the kitchen into a war zone, lunches can be nice and leisurely. After school, fire up the charcoal grill, make some salads in the kitchen, and have an enjoyable "summer fare."

4. Schedule play time for the kids if they are that young. It doesn't have to be a meal, you can do reasonable meals at home, and visit friends. A little coffee/tea and a snack of fruit/veges is perfect for the adults while the kids run around, and keeps you from approaching dinner starving.

5. Enjoy the family time. Life is such a blur, you never get to enjoy time like this.

This is a MUCH better schedule than mid-week holidays. Wednesday/Thursday is TERRIBLE, you are crazed Monday night shopping, your work week is shot, and Friday is a crazed day getting ready for Shabbat.

Our first 3-dayer in this community was pre-kids, and we did the heavy meal after heavy meal with friends, I wanted to shoot myself at the end. If you aren't celebrating your religion with joy, what's the point?

alpidarkomama said...

3 days with DH home from work?? HEAVEN!!!!!!! I find it all actually kind of relaxing. I make all kinds of side dishes that re-appear each day and just change the main entree each time. Freeze a couple of things ahead of time. We eat small portions but a lot of variety and don't gorge so it doesn't feel like too much food. Lots of salads! Any cooking for yom tov I do at night so I can have some relaxing/visiting time during the day too. For the kids, we do a lot of reading aloud, inviting the kids' friends over (and visiting too), a few games, and BOOM the 3 days have passed.

Trudy said...

Lunch meals are very light, mostly milchig/pareve dishes because we get home from shul so late and then it's only a little bit of time and dinner is served. I'll cook something different for Wed. night and Friday night and then serve that main again on Thursday and Shabbos lunch. I do vary the starch for each meal--potatoes, rice, pasta--to have a little variety. The side salads go for all of the meals.

For me the problem is that you do this for Rosh Hashanah and then you're faced again with this for the two parts of Sukkos. It's not 7 meals, it's 21 meals in a fairly short time period.

Mary Poppins said...

We love the yomim tovim. We work hard before and during (and after) but the closeness that my extended family enjoys is thank G-d most treasured. And besides, we get s'char for the toil and preparations, so what's so bad. Yes, we eat too much, but it's a tribute to the great cooks among us and it's also l'sheim mitzvah (in theory :). Yes, there are low grumbles among the kids (and adults) but at the end this is the stuff our best memories - and religion - are made of. I wish you all the same!

G6 said...

"are you looking to impress someone or to feed someone"

Ooooh, this is a tough one. I'm not out for either I'd say. "Feeding someone" is far to pedestrian for a Yom Tov. I'm not out to "impress" exactly either. I'm out to create a memorable Yom Tov dining experience with specialty items that one does not get during the year. That's what people remember and look forward to.
While this does cause some inevitable stress, I do try to keep some sort of balance while creating the atmosphere that I seek.
It's tough all around, I'll grant you that.....

miriamp said...

"Oh, and I heard anecdotally that next year is also all 3 day yom tovs. FUN!!!"

It's actually worse than that (or maybe better?) -- 4 times in the next 5 years (counting this coming one). I think it's two together, the third is different, then two in a row again.

I actually like YomTov, and I think this way is better than the erev Shabbos/Shabbos/erev YomTov/YomTov/erev Shabbos/Shabbos/erev YomTov/YomTov schedule (you know, where there's only one actual weekday for practically the whole month?) And I don't like the Shabbos IS Yomtov of a Shabbos/Sunday schedule because I have a non-walking child and live outside of the eruv, so I feel like I miss a day of YomTov on that schedule.

I also love the part where Friday is NOT a stressed rushed erev Shabbos type day because it's YomTov and I just have a few things to heat up before Shabbos instead of the usual cooking and baking marathon. And yes, we re-run things for Shabbos, but I only make things we like, so we don't mind seeing them again so soon.