Christmas is coming, but here in the birth place of the guy we are celebrating the birth of, Christmas is just a regular day. For my first few years here it was indisputably odd to me that Christmas does not exist (in my part of Israel at least). Before the arrival of the childers I hopped on the plane and spent Christmas with my family as always. These days we just can’t afford it. I mean what are you supposed to do, take 1? Have a lottery? Take the eldest in the hopes the little ones won’t notice or separate the twins so they finally get some individual attention. Hmmmm. Nope, none of the above, for the 2nd year running and for only the 4th time in my life I will be having Christmas away from ‘home’.
There is a street in Tel Aviv which sells all types of Christmas paraphernalia; plastic trees, tinsel, singing Santas, everything you could wish for should you want to decorate your home a la Gavin & Stacey. One year when a friend came to celebrate with us we spent Christmas morning running around said street searching for crackers. Apparently crackers are considered dangerous weapons and are banned. So crackerless but stocked up with a small tree and some lights, a few baubles and some tinsel we are Christmas-ready. Not to offend anyone I don’t put the tree up until after Hannukah, which is tricky in the year where they fall at the same time.
It never ceases to amaze me (because I am a die-hard Christmas loving consumer) the amount of joy that Hannukah brings to my kids, in fact I would go as far as to say that Christmas is the poor relation in comparison. It’s taken me a while to get why lighting some candles, eating some doughnuts and twisting a spinning top could compare with pantomimes, too much chocolate, fairy lights and a magic man than leaves you presents when you are asleep, but in this house the joy of Hannukah far outweighs the joy of Christmas, unless of course Christmas is spent in the magical world of the Grandparent’s house in Britain.
I have sensibly accepted that growing up in Israel means that the Jewish celebrations will of course mean more to my kids than any Christian one. Yes I get pangs of sadness but I also recognize the joy the celebrations and holidays that are unfamiliar to me, bring to them. Our home already boasts a large collection of savivonim (spinning tops) and I would be a rich woman if I got a shekel for every time my son asked when the Hannukiah (the special candle holder) can come out.
As the run up to the big day approaches (Christmas, not my birthday), I am sure that there will be the inevitable pictures of friend’s kids wearing tea towels on their heads and angel wings on Facebook and I will get the familiar, I wish my kids could be in a nativity. I have already had a yearning for a Christmas market and a glass of mulled wine and I may have to mop the tears if I hear Fairytale of New York (although not much chance of that).
One year we did a full on Christmas here, we went out on Christmas Eve to an Irish pub figuring there was bound to be some evidence of Christmas there, nope, my son had a stocking at the end of his cot and we had a Christmas dinner with our Israeli friends. We had a great time (well I did), the tree was up as were the 8 cards I received, we pulled out the emergency chairs, decorated the table with sparkly confetti and candles and hubby cooked a splendid Christmas dinner. One of our guests asked half way through, ‘what do we do now then?’ hmm that’s a tricky one, I mean what do you do on Christmas day? If you are not religious and don’t go to church you basically eat, open presents, play a board game and watch the Queen’s speech. So in essence at our gathering, eat.
This year the Christmas fairy aka my sister will be arriving on Christmas Eve, acting as the present mule and my excuse to ‘do’ Christmas – I am not sure without an overseas guest I would go to the trouble of the whole sh’bang bearing in mind it’s a regular work day and the kids are in nursery. I intend to Christmasify the house, provide pillow cases for the childers for Santa’s haul and play Jingle Bells at every opportunity. I can kid myself I am doing it for the kids but let’s face it I am doing it for myself; Christmas brings back so many very happy memories from my childhood. My children will hopefully will be blessed with memories of a double celebration, starting on the first night of Hannukah and ending when the Christmas tree is taken down.