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Dec 29 2010

Living on a Kibbutz Made Me F-ing Love Christmas

By at 3:16 pm

Once, while stoned out of my mind while taking a break from studying for finals during college, I took an online Enneagram test.

(An Enneagram test, like the ubiquitous Myers-Briggs (Briggs-Myers?) is a pseudo-scientific personality discovery tool thingy that essentially tells you nothing you don’t already know while also giving you incredible insight into the inner-workings of your psyche.)

But college is nothing if not a time for a little, ahem, self-discovery. So, I put down the bong and clicked my way through a series of questions.

Big Surprise. I scored high on Type 4, the Individualist, or, as B. likes to call it, the “Tortured Pain in the Ass Artist.”

As such, I like to be different. Always. (“Really? we had no idea!” I hear you cry.)

From extended breastfeeding, to strutting around in high heel hooker boots through the corn fields on a kibbutz, to cursing on the internet like a trucker on crunk–and alienating future prospective employers (I’ve googled myself–I know it ain’t pretty) in the process–I’ve enjoyed doing things that make me stand out.

As Green Day so eloquently put it, “I want to be a minority…”

And luckily, by birth right, I am a minority: I’m Jewish.

While living in the United States, I reveled in my Jewishness because it made me different. Yes, even in LA, where you can float away on a sea of yarmulkes down Fairfax Avenue… Still.

The “Holidays”–and I use that term loosely because let’s be real: Jinglebells, Santa Claus, and red and green everythings have nothing to do with Hanukkah or the fight for independence from the Assyrian army 200 years before the Common Era – has traditionally been a time when I would assert my Jewish independence from the Christmas caroling majority.

I never hummed along with the “Holiday” songs trickling through the loud speakers at the mall.

Instead, I blasted Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song (the first and second one, because the third one is kind of lame even with the Osama Bin Laden reference). This made me feel a little special.

(Ok, in hindsight, I wasn’t a little special. I was a lot obnoxious.)

I never dressed in red or green or (God Forbid!) red and green together during the “Holidays.”  I would scoff at my friends for wearing Santa hats. And once, I yelled at my high school principal for allowing a Christmas tree to prominently decorate the main office.
I wasn’t a total Grinch: I’d bake meringue cookies with my mom to bring to Nancy’s Christmas party.  I’d go to gift exchanges.. When the weather dropped to a frigid 63 degrees (yes, Europe, I know you hate me) my parents and I lit a fire, and we’d sip hot cocoa.

And when I got a little older, I’d get my drink on at the occasional office “Holiday” party.

Still, I was Jewish and the “Holidays” were not really my thing.

And that was cool because I got to be different. I could scowl my way through “Holiday” movie marathons at friends’ houses, and sigh loudly about how unfair it was that My People were not given any real representation, oh and “could you please pass the pitcher of egg nog and bowl of red and green M&M’s, oh and Fight the Power!”

But now, I am no longer a minority.

You know how as soon as the Halloween decorations come down from Longs Drugs, it’s like Santa blows up in the middle of Aisle three, and it’s red and green and glitter and fake snow and reindeer shit everywhere?

Well, the Kibbutz market was already selling dreidals and Hanukkah candles when we landed in mid-October.

Mid-October. It was 80 degrees out.

Suddenly, I stopped feeling special.

And I started missing Christmas.

I longed for mistletoe. I yearned for sleigh bells. I missed Santa Claus. I craved figgy pudding (whatever that is.)

Because ever since Hanukkah fizzled out a few weeks ago, it’s been bleak around these parts. (Think January 2nd and back to business as usual.) And I’ve longed for the warmth and cheer of the “Holidays” back home.

There is no Christmas here on the kibbutz, so when a friend of mine invited me to come with her to a little shop in Ramle known for selling Christmassy things, I was thrilled.  I imagined a secret hide-away buried deep in a maze of alley ways. There would be no sign. The door would be barred with a medieval looking bolt type thingy, and you’d need a secret password or handshake to get through.

“I’m going to a Christmas shop!” I whispered to B., thrilled by the taboo.

“Whatev.” He said. “Have fun. Can you take Little Homie with you?”

And while the shop – Konstantin’s Gifts (yes there was a sign)–was waaaaaay more mundane than I had imagined, at least it was in an alley.

And this year, for the first time in my entire life, I bought a Christmas tree ornament.  I ate sugar cookies on Santa Claus napkins.  I sang God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – and not in sotto voce, I might add – while walking back from the Kibbutz dining hall after lighting the Shabbat candles.

And while reveling in the “Holiday” spirit with a few other closet Christmas-celebrants, it occurred to me that it isn’t about the colors or the mistletoe or the songs or the reindeer shit. It’s about getting through the darkest days of the year with a little extra light.

And sometimes, even a Tortured pain in the ass Artist needs to feel part of a joyful, boisterous celebration.

And figgy pudding aint half bad.


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