For people who don’t celebrate Christmas, December 25 isn’t some sad day with nothing to do. Despite the rest of the world essentially shutting down, they find different ways to enjoy the day.
“We have our own Christmas Day traditions,” said Sharon Kostiner, who’s Jewish and works as membership director at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo. “In my working life, the JCC is open Christmas Day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. I was always the one who would volunteer to work for part of the day—or the whole day—so my Christian staff or coworkers could have the day off.”
In her personal life, Kostiner says she often does the “stereotypical” thing.
“The joke is, ‘What do Jews do on Christmas? They go to the movies and to Chinese restaurants,’” she said. “There’s a group of us who go see a movie and then usually order in dinner.”
Christmas also provides an opportunity for special family time—even if it’s not surrounding a tinseled tree.
Kostiner said depending on where Hanukkah fell, her family sometimes postponed celebrating until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, when her kids were home from college.
“We knew everyone would be available and nobody’s working, so we’d take that day to do our own family celebration,” she said. “It’s just more of a family day.”
Dr. Syed Haider, vice president of the nonprofit Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), said while Muslims do celebrate the birth of Jesus, it’s on a different day each year based on the moon. But on December 25, he usually spends time with friends.
“We do kind of celebrate on that day, not as a Muslim, just as a member of the community,” Haider said. “My best friends are all Christians and we go to their places.”
Patrick Scully, director of food and beverage Panorama on Seven, said he’s happy to be open on Christmas as the restaurant caters to a diverse clientele. He also said he’s seen an increase in patrons who celebrate Christmas, but prefer to eat out.
“It can be stressful, and we see a lot more people now who are Christian or Catholic joining us because they just don’t want to clean up,” Scully said.
And for those craving some nightlife on Christmas, Pearl Street Grill & Brewery has thrown a Christmas party on Dec. 25 for more than a decade now. Each year, around 1,000 people attend, according to director of operations Josh Ketry.
“I think it’s gotten so popular because everyone wants to do something and there’s nothing to do,” said Ketry. “You have friends who move away and then everyone comes back for Christmas and is in town. It gives options to people who don’t celebrate Christmas and to those who don’t like the tradition of being stuck with family the whole day.”
The party spans all four floors of the building, with the first floor having a “chill” vibe, and the upper three levels a bit livelier with dance music. The event is staffed on a volunteer basis and tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door.
Looking for ideas?
There’s plenty to do throughout Buffalo on Christmas Day, whether it’s going out to eat, sledding, attending a party or even finding somewhere to swim indoors, like at the JCC. Also, most movie theaters are open on Christmas (and many would-be blockbusters are released on Christmas Day).
Some businesses that are open on Christmas operate on different hours and many restaurants offer special Christmas menus, so be sure to call ahead and find out specifics before heading out.
282 Franklin St., Buffalo
210 Franklin St., Buffalo (inside the Curtiss Hotel)
Kabab & Curry
8445 Main St., Buffalo
Local Kitchen & Beer Bar
88 W. Chippewa St., Buffalo
Morton’s The Steakhouse
2 Fountain Plaza (inside the Hyatt Regency Buffalo)
5195 Main St., Williamsville
2095 Delaware Ave., Buffalo
Panorama on Seven
95 Main St., Buffalo (inside the Buffalo Marriott Harborcenter)
250 Delaware Ave., Buffalo
Pearl Street Grill & Brewery
76 Pearl St., Buffalo
200 Delaware Ave., Buffalo