Friday, December 23, 2011

Holidays in the Holy Land

Reality is often quite ironic.  In the Western World, the only place where almost everybody is working on Jesus’ birthday is in the place he was born.  Throughout Europe and the United States, people will be taking this Sunday off, with only a few luckless individuals having to work.  (I have worked holidays;  Even the extra pay does not make it feel better.) Just in Israel, the birthplace of Jesus, is Sunday a regular working day, albeit with the kids off for Hanukah.  Not only that, there is no sign of snow or reindeers here, not mention, aside from a few Christian villages, any sound of Christmas carols.
In fact, the winter solstice holiday in Israel remains pleasantly banal.  People go to work, unless they work in high tech or some other industry so tied to Europe and the United States that it makes no sense for a business to remain open.  Every night until Wednesday, a candle will be lit and a few short prayers and songs sung in honor of Hanukah.  The Moslems and Druze have no holiday at this time.  So, they conduct business as usual.  The Christians will spend their holiday with their families, but it is not a very public celebration in most places. 
In fact, the most significant signs that there is any holiday at all are the omnipresent sufganiot [doughnuts], the smell of levivot [potato pancakes], and malls packed with kids and teenagers trying to spend their money as fast as they can.  They of course are quite happy to be excused from school for a week, the exact same feeling their teachers have. 
On the bright side, people in Israel are not assaulted by fat men wearing red clothing, a constant background of cheerful songs, the pangs of guilt and foot pain involved in buying gifts, and a week of too much alcohol and food, not to mention fascinating small talk.  This is almost a normal week. For us freelancers, we have two weeks of being in great demand as our colleagues in the West are generally busy socializing. 
Still, I would not protest if someone offered me an eggnog, nice and strong of course, and sang once, but only once, and in key Little Drummerboy.  Aside from that, I prefer the Israeli version of the holiday atmosphere.  It is quite possible that Jesus would feel at home with it.

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