Like any recent college grad whose significant other dumps them right before the holiday, Jamie wasn’t on the hunt for a date when Christmas Eve 1993 rolled around.
Her Jewish family wasn’t gathering to celebrate anything, so what she really wanted to do that night was get drunk and forget her troubles. When her friend Melissa suggested they attend MatzoBall Philly, she begrudgingly agreed.
“I really was just going to the party to get shitfaced,” Jamie said, thinking back to that night. “Rather than to meet another guy.”
But sometimes it’s easiest to find things you’re not looking for. Sure enough, several Jack Daniels into MatzoBall, which was first held in Boston three decades ago and now takes place in eight different cities, Jamie fell into conversation with a guy who made her whole being tingle.
“Turns out our mothers had played tennis together for 15 years,” she recalled, “and we had attended the same high school.”
At the end of the eve, as Jamie waved goodbye and headed home with Melissa, she turned to her friend. “Know what?” she said, stepping dreamily out the door. “That is the man I’m going to marry.”
Turns out she was right. Even more impressive, the couple is still together 24 years later.
The experience sounds a bit like a fairytale, or at least like a Hallmark (Non-)Christmas movie, but Jamie’s not an outlier. This kind of thing happens at MatzoBall all the time.
Over the past 31 years, the annual Dec. 24 event has built a reputation as a place where young Jewish singles find romance. Part of that’s attributable to the marketing for the affair, which plays up its matchmaker rep so excessively that it almost rings false.
“To MatzoBall founder Andy Rudnick,” the promo copy reads, “Oh Holy Night has meant helping young Jewish hormone-driven singles meet and mate since 1986.”
But real stories from Jewish hormone-driven singles (aka party attendees) prove out the claim.
Testimonial quotes provided by the MatzoBall team focus mostly on general relationships. “I met a girl there and we dated for a year,” says one. “I met my current boyfriend there,” reads another. Or on the fact that the soiree is a good time to strengthen bonds with Jewish friends, “even if you do not find love.”
It makes sense to keep spousal expectations in check. Because it would be silly to raise false hopes, and marriage isn’t for everyone.
Yet there are a remarkable number of narratives that do end with a ring.
Last February, a man went on Fox 5 NY to talk about his experience at the bash and ended up proposing to the woman he’d met there live on air. A Florida couple referred to Billy Penn by MatzoBall staff is now expecting their fourth child after first connecting at the gala.
And an informal ask on social media turned up not just Jamie, but two other Philadelphians who’d wed a person they found at the event described as “an unforgettable Jewcy adventure.”
Marc was living in D.C. when he attended, back in 1996. He ran into a woman he’d known as a kid but hadn’t seen in over a decade. After scoring her number at MatzoBall, he called to ask her out, and the rest is history: “We’ve been together ever since.”
In Philly in the ‘90s, the party was held at the former Egypt night club on Delaware Avenue, which led erstwhile attendee Matt to come up with this as his opening pickup line: “The last time there were this many Jews in Egypt, they were building the place.”
For Nancy, the party she attended at Egypt was almost an afterthought. She was about to leave for a vacation in Florida, so didn’t really want to go, but a friend had heard a certain lawyer named James they wanted to fix her up with would be there.
“So I went and it was epic,” she remembered. She flew to Florida the next day, and at some point in the afternoon, her grandmother’s phone rang. “I’ll never forget when my Mom Mom said, ‘Dear, there is a James on the phone for you…’” A year later, James and Nancy married.
Egypt’s long gone, but MatzoBall has found a new Philly home at Center City nightclub Rumor, where it’s been held the past five years.
Though the main audience is obviously Jewish singles, and the vibe targets people aged 21 to 49, anyone is welcome to attend. The $30 regular ticket includes admission and discounts on drinks, or you can gather a group of friends and splurge on a VIP table with bottle service for $700 and up.
Just be ready for a crowd — organizers expect 1,500 people or more — and for a chance encounter. As Jamie, Marc, Nancy and hundreds of others can testify, you never know when you’ll meet your match. Even on Christmas Eve.