December has always been a good month for me. It’s the month that as a kid we had 2 weeks off school, the Christmas disco, the Christmas production, Santa would appear in the streets just before bed time on a sleigh on wheels courtesy of the local Round Table, carol concerts, a trip to Manchester to see the Christmas lights, Christmas itself and of course the highlight, my birthday, complete with birthday treat trip to the ballet/pantomime/ice skating rink. Ah, December.
These days December has taken on a whole new meaning, not least because I am no longer in school. The only part of my past Decembers that really remains is my birthday, although I don’t ice skate these days.
So what is December now? Well it’s doughnuts and fire hazards, spinning tops and latkes, 5 advent calendars counting down to the day my sister arrives (aka Santa), a small apology for a Christmas tree and of late, some explanations to number one son about what Christmas is (“when is the winter holiday” he asked his father the other day – oy vay), what are Christians and Jews are and why do some celebrate one holiday, another celebrate another and we celebrate (of a fashion), both.
December is also a smell, not pine needles and mulled wine (mmm I love mulled wine), it is the smell of frying. I might have mentioned before (a trillion times) that my husband is a pastry chef and as such spends 2 weeks of December frying doughnuts. In Israel people go mad for doughnuts at Hannukah. You have to see the varieties and queues to buy them to believe it. I have heard a rumour that one bakery chain makes more money during Hannukah than the rest of the year put together. The more elaborate the doughnut, the better. Not good if you are calorie counting.
This year hubby and team have competition-winning Hannukah doughnuts and judging by the 15 hour days and the stink that accompanies him when he walks through the door – strip at the door, clothes in washer, straight to the shower – the bakery kitchen is certainly frying their fair share and more.
We are now on the 6th candle out of 8 which means Hannukah is nearing its end. Every evening we have spent with different friends or family to ceremonially light the candle, eat and try to contain (or not) the excitement of rowdy children. We have also eaten doughnuts, well I say we but actually I haven’t eaten one. I don’t like doughnuts, never have, never will. There is something about eating a fried cake that just doesn’t sit well with me or my stomach.
In two days the hannukiah and box of assorted spinning tops will be put away for another year and I will bring out my Christmas tree and start internet window shopping for my birthday. Like last year, we will not be braving the cold of Christmas in the UK, instead my sis will come and she and I will have Christmas lunch in a restaurant, followed by present opening with the childers when they come home from nursery. Yes they will be going to nursery, not much else to do on Christmas Day if no-one else is celebrating. We will be having our annual Christmas dinner and knees up on the 20th with my English Jewish friends who appreciate that Christmas appeals beyond religion.
Much as I might hark back to the Decembers of my childhood I am happy to report that even in my new Israeli/Jewish/Christian life December is still special; still about the kids having fun, still about my birthday, still about over eating and being with friends and family. I will of course have pangs as the month progresses, especially during the Christmas Day phone call with my family in the UK (no crying this year?) but for me December is still the most wonderful time of the year.