Friday, December 14, 2007

Culture Shock

Having spent the last two weeks in Israel, and finding myself quite at ease living in Tel Aviv for that time, it was quite a shock to return to the United States of Christmas.

For so long I've taken it for granted, particularly in Southern California which is nothing if not over-the-top when it comes to gussying up for the holiday beginning as early as the day after Halloween (some enthusiasts up the hill from us keep their decorative lighting illuminated year-rouond).

But having been out of the country, residing temporarily mere minutes away from where the celebrated event actually took place, I saw virtually no evidence of Christmas.

And Hanukah, which in the U.S. has come to be touted as a sort of Jewish Christmas, rivalling the Christian holiday in garish decorations and commercialism, is a minor religious holiday in the Jewish state. Hanukah menorahs may be visible in shops, the ubiquitous Chabad proselytisers conduct public candlelighting ceremonies accompanied by song and families do gather (like my own cousins did), but a stranger would never conclude that he's arrived during some important holiday.

With my home neighborhood lit up like, well, you know, I felt like an alien. And it now being rather late to begin our own process of Christmakah/Hanumas decorating, Alison and I opted to forgo it this year.

At least her mother's care package came on time, with nutballs, gingerbread men, date nut loaf and garlic cereal snack mix, to give our home the slightest tinge of festivity. And I'm still being expected to fry up a batch of potato latkes even though, by now, Hanukah's eight days and eight nights have passed.

Until next time...


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