Christmas and New Year in Israel

Schanah towah, Happy New Year! 🙂

In this Blog post I´m gonna write about how I experienced the Christmas and New Year holidays here in Israel. It all started at the beginning of December where my family sent me some pictures of their advent calenders. I hadn´t even realized that it was already December and that Christmas was right around the corner.

In the middle of December we started to decorate the Chader Ochel (A big room where everyone sits together, chills and also eats), did some handicrafting, baked delicous cookies and also had a Christmas bar evening where we also made Glühwein. But despite of all our Christmas activities I didn´t really got into the Christmas spirit at first. It was all just so different from home. I was used to have my advent calender, go to Christmas markets with some friends and just put on my boots and my thick winter jacket because of the cold weather in Germany. Another weird thing for me was that most of us volunteers also had to work on the 24th of December because for most of the people in Israel it was just a normal working day.

I realized how much influence your whole surrounding has on you because here, the Jewish and the Muslim Israelis don´t celebrate Christmas, some of them don´t even really know what Christmas is. That´s why it was also kind of a struggle to get some nice Christmas decoration because we had some leftover decoration in Nes Ammim from the past years, but nothing really nice. So we drove to Abu Snan, an Arab village where we could find some Christmas shops especially opened for this season (and yes a lot of people tend to forget that there are also Christian Arab Israelis – although a minority – who also of course celebrate Christmas). We did had some difficulties finding a Christmas tree and some decoration that wasn´t all cheesy and glittery but in the end it all worked out and we had a small fake tree and another bigger tree that we ordered (that didn´t look like a Christmas tree though but still was very nice).

But by far the best Christmas experience that I had was in Jerusalem. Max, also a German volunteer and me went spontaneously to Jerusalem for two days in December. While visiting the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and walking through the Old City we suddenly saw a camel in the middle of the sidewalk. On top of the camel there was a man dressed as Santa Claus with a small Christmas tree in his hands wishing everyone Merry Christmas. Max and me couldn´t really believe what was happening. We just saw Santa Claus on top of a camel riding through Jerusalem?! It was definitely an encounter that I will never forget 🙂

Back in Nes Ammim we organized a big fancy dinner for the 24th of December which was very nice. We ate amazing food, had a Church Service and some volunteers even went to a Christmas parade in Nazareth in the morning. After the dinner all the volunteers celebrated together until early in the morning with some self made “Glühwein”.

The next couple of days till New Years Eve went by really fast. We organized a big bar evening for all the volunteers. We had an awesome night and celebrated till early in the morning 🙂 On the the New Years day we all went to the sea to complete an old dutch tradition: The New Years dive. The sea was REALLY cold but it also was a lot fun to begin the year 2017 at the beach in Naharyia.

All in all I really enjoyed spending the holidays here in Nes Ammim in Israel. I got to experience so many new things during December and the beginning of January 2017. In addition to our Christmas and New Years celebrations, Chanukah (also known as Festival of lights, a Jewish holiday) fell in the same season this year. So we also celebrated Chanukah with a group of elderly people and also had a big “Weihnukkah” (mix of Christmas and Chanukah) party with the inhabitants of Nes Ammim.

In Europe Christmas is such a big deal because a lot of people celebrate it. You kind of forget that in other parts of the world it can be so different. You realize – if you live in a country where most of the people are not Christian – that every culture has their own different traditions and celebrations. But that doesn´t mean that you can´t learn, respect and just enjoy the different holidays together.

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