Yesterday, I found myself rocking out to "Feliz Navidad" and "Jingle Bell Rock" on my machine at the gym, carefully turning my iPod upside down so the religious woman next to me would not see what was on my screen.
Oddly enough, as Chanukah came to a close and December kept on going, I realized that something was starkly missing from this month in Israel – storefronts decorated in cottony snowstorm diaramas, manikins in Santa Claus hats and cheesy green and red lights strewn anywhere and everywhere.
I never expected to miss this holiday, seeing that as a Jew in the United States, the Christmas paraphenalia is basically thrown in your face from every street corner since childhood. But no matter what your religion is, there’s some sort of comfort in feeling everyone’s cheer that comes along with Christmas season – not to mention hearing those all-too-familiar songs that radiate from every shop.
When I leave the JPost from a nighttime copy desk shift, half of me expects to see plastic reindeer and electric ornaments dangling from the telephone poles during my route home. But then I remember that I’m in Romema – not Times Square – and realize that the haredim who live there probably wouldn’t take too kindly to such decor.
While there are many, many Christians in Jerusalem, they don’t seem to take to Christmas in the same way that commercialized America (or Europe) does and I guess just celebrate in a less outlandish way in the city’s sacred sanctuaries. I must admit, however, that I haven’t been to the Christian Quarter – or for that matter, the entire Old City – in a couple months, so I honestly can’t attest to these facts for sure. I may not be very religious, but I do need a trip to the kotel soon, which I’m sure will happen when my mother visits me in two weeks time.
But aside from three Christmas cards I saw in a Ben-Yehuda Street tourist hub and some gaudy decorations available in Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station, I haven’t seen any signs of the one-horse open sleigh. As my upstairs neighbor Menashe said, isn’t odd not to see the Salvation Army Santa Claus-im clanging their bells at every street corner?
It’s so strange to me that something that seemed so irritating and overdone during most of my life could actually trigger a bit of nostalgia when you’re so far away from it.
I wonder if it will snow at all here this year.