We Tried the Reverse Holiday Diet

Holiday-Diet-Leandra-Medine-Christmas Tree-Man-Repeller

This piece was originally published in December 2015. Can you even freaking believe it? An oldie but a goodie, we wanted to share our joint holiday extravaganza. Honestly, it’s all for you, Seth Cohen.

Amelia is Jewish only when it is convenient. That is, if you call her on Yom Kippur, you can rest assured she is eating a sandwich and reminding you about her baptism. When Purim rolls around, though? She’s the queen of costumes and alcoholic beverage consumption. Eating at a restaurant and the special is tender pork belly? She’s on it! And then as though it never happened, there she is, smearing white fish over her bagel, gossiping about the girls from Bridge club.

But I’ve had it, you know? She’s never even attempted atonement. So this year, at the intersection of our faiths: she put on her Hanukkah hat, I test drove (without a license!) right down St. Nick’s lane. There was only rule, which was that Amelia would write a diet for me and I would write one for her.

Here is what she put together, annotated with my reactions.

1) You’re going to need some sort of tree, or a wreath, or at the very least something to decorate.

I cannot commit to bringing Christ into my home, but I will happily pose with a tree on 1st Street, which is close enough.


Leandra: 1, Christmas: 1, Amelia: dead.

2) You will exclusively play Christmas music, and it has to be playing non-stop.

This was absolutely no problem whatsoever — I listen to the Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald holiday stations on Pandora almost exclusively, which I mentioned in a post that went live on December 11th. Two for me, Glen Coco. But I hate peppermint.

3) Throw/Attend at least one ugly sweater themed party.

Does claiming ownership over a photo of Beyoncé in the ugliest sweater party sweater count as having completed this task?


4) Drink eggnog


5) Watch: Love Actually, It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, Home Alone (or please refer to this list)

I watched Home Alone at least six times. Catherine O’Hara has one of the craziest faces I have ever seen on television. It is so underrated that she asks a flight attendant at the airport in Paris if they could help her charter a private plane home to Kevin for Christmas. Also, here’s a fun fact: John Candy improvised that entire scene where he talks about leaving his kid at a funeral home in the polka polka van when they’re getting O’Hara home to Kev. As you can see, I murdered this movie dance floor.

6) Send at least a few Christmas cards.

I did you one better and sent Christmas gifts. Each came with a card, and every single one said the same thing:

Dear Recipient,

Merry Christmas!

Your Jewish friend with a soul made of gelt,


And then I attached a phone number for the orthodox Jewish conversion hotline!

7) Bake festive cookies and bring to office

I defer to you, Amelia, to tell the community about the vegan, gluten free cookies that I made for the office. Leave all tales of chipped teeth out — thx.

8) Order/drink a holiday special at Starbucks. Here’s the 2015 lineup:

Caramel Brulée Latte.
Chestnut Praline Latte.
Christmas Cookie Latte.
Eggnog Latte.
Gingerbread Latte.
Honey And Almond Hot Chocolate.
Peppermint Mocha.
Toffee Nut Latte.

Leandra and Christmas: 2, Leandra’s waist line: 4777387219.


No. Why would I count down the days until the end of my favorite Pandora stations? You are a masochist and I won’t engage with your antics.

10) Dress festive (red/green/sparkly).

I defer to this.

And this.

And this!

And here’s an outfit I wore last Sunday night.


Johanna Ortiz polka dot top and pants

And now, for Amelia’s diet.


So I grew up half-Jewish.

The entire world seemed to buy this or at least let me live until I met Leandra Medine about six years ago and she told me this made no sense. Technically, I understood her reasoning. Theoretically, however, I understood mine more. Dad: Jewish. Mom: Catholic. Me: Guilty.

But whatever, it meant I did a little bit of it all: a first communion here, a cousin’s bar mitzvah there, Easter, Passover, Christmas and Hanukkah. I’ve got about 10% of the prayers on both sides memorized and mumble along with the rest, just like how I sing along to the 2nd verse of Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy is Mine.”

When this holiday season rolled around and Leandra and I decided to swap customs, I secretly assumed I’d win. Channukah was only 8 days long — Christmas starts the second Thanksgiving ends so technically, she was already behind.

But that right there was first mistake. Not assuming I’d win, of course, but in spelling Hanukkah. Chanukah. Ḥanukah. חנוכה. I mean how the fuck do you spell this word if Google gives you 8234567 versions?! Watch me explore the variety in my diet below.

Next came Leandra’s insane assignment list that was designed to raise my cholesterol, get me arrested for cocaine consumption and make me broke.

Behold — her instructions, copied & pasted verbatim, in bold, followed by my results and notes:

1) You must consume at least one powdered jelly donut every single day. You must also make sure that powdered residue remains above your top lip for at least 20 minutes post consumption.

Finding traditional powdered “sufganiyah” with strong-enough Yelp reviews in New York City proved more difficult than one might imagine, especially considering that I am lazy and hate walking into stores.

I ended up spending 20 excruciating minutes on the phone with Doughnut Plant to confirm that their Hanukah doughnuts were legit and another 20 excruciating dollars to have them delivered.


They sent me the wrong ones (these were covered in peanuts as opposed to powder) so unfortunately, no Pablo Escobar ‘stache. They were, however, filled with blackberry jelly. I ate both of course and consider this a win.

Also of note: Leandra baked cookies, and they were actually good. Since she’s Jewish, I now consider these Jewish cookies and give myself an extra credit point.

2) Light the Menorah every night starting tonight and recite the prayers. 

Arguably the most important part of this holiday, I only lit the candle once.


And on the 2nd day. However, my excuse is that upon calling my (Jewish) grandmother to wish her a Happy Hanukah, she told me that lighting candles was very dangerous and not to do it ever again.

2a) You should also tell everyone Kendallabra is trying to steal Hannukah’s thunder.

No, Leandra.

3) Give up meditation for a week and instead play dreidl (basically the same thing)

I don’t meditate (can you tell?!?!?!?!? EIieoSIHG OSHOUh!! ! ! ! !) so this was easy to give up. Meanwhile, dreidel — the 10th word in this “diet” with 100 different variations on its spelling — became my new favorite way to make noise in the office.

4) Eat potato pancakes for breakfast, tell people they’re latkes and that eating them sure beats doing homework.

Another culinary fail. The restaurant “ran out.” I was mad but I’m also half-Irish so I know the struggle of a potato famine well.

5) Buy me a gift every night for all eight nights

It’s the thought that counts?

6) Whenever asked how you’re doing this week, you must answer, “Wonderful! I am celebrating the miracle of light!” — and then go into the extensive Biblical narrative wherein the Maccabees light a menorah in the holy temple and the light lasts for eight days. Then interrupt yourself and say that this is just one of the stories we tell ourselves in order to live.

I opted out and wore a menorah hat instead.


6a) Remind people that though Joan Didion is not Jewish, her birthday does overlap with Hanukah this year.

Mostly I just reminded people how Thanksgiving coincided with Hanukah last year and repeatedly brought up Seth Cohen’s creation of Chrismukkah.

7) Learn to say “suvganiyot,” which means jelly donuts in hebrew.

Easy like the Internet.

8) Memorize the lyrics to this song, become a pubescent boy with the vocal talent of an angel on acid.

I remain a post-pubescent woman. However, I also much prefer the Maccabeats:

9) Stop spending US dollars, force vendors to take “gelt” (it’s gold coin chocolate)

Uber loved this!!!


10) Commit an orthodox conversion

Awkward…Christmas is coming soon, so no can do.

But you didn’t think I’d let myself lose, right?

Just like the Maccabees said — it’s a miracle.

Feature illustration by via The Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images; collages by Krista Anna Lewis and Emily Zirimis.


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