December doesn’t mean Christmas

As a non-Jewish family from Europe, our relocation to Tel Aviv meant discovering a totally new festive culture at the end of the calendar year.

After five years in Germany, we were totally settled into our Christmas traditions. There, December is famous for Advent crowns where a new candle is lit every Sunday during the four weeks before Christmas Eve, or for drinking Weihnachtsbier  and Glühwein  at magical Christmas markets.

In Israel, Hanukkah is the end of year celebration, but this can’t be compared to Christmas. So, as a family, we try to maintain our traditions, but we also need to adapt ourselves. First, here you must check your calendar to remember Christmas is coming because you can’t count on the winter weather or decorated streets!

Then, comes the Christmas tree hunt. Naively, I had in mind to look for a real one. Some people told me I should be able to find one in Nazareth. I realised that driving more than 100km for a tree makes no sense. Ecologically, I also decided that cutting a tree who had to grow up in a country where the climate is not made for him and used half of the country’s water to end up dying in my house is not what I want (‘Christmas tree forests’ in Germany sounded better). As an expat family, I don’t want to buy a plastic one, saving some space for our next move. So, I try to be inventive and check on Pinterest “how to draw a Christmas tree with masking tape”.

In Tel Aviv, there’s no Mariah Carey singing in the streets, no Santa’s sleigh soundtrack when you enter a mall, just a few Christmas pop-up stores in the area of Jaffa. The good side to all this: my six-year-old son is not in the Christmas mood at all, so he’s not talking every day about Santa coming to town!

Emilie Durand

Emilie Durand and her husband have lived in Tel Aviv in Israel since June 2021 with their two sons. Before this new relocation, they spent five years in Herzogenaurach in Germany. Emilie studied communications in France then worked in PR for high-tech brands in Paris.

Main photo: Hanukkah and Christmas in Tel Aviv (Emilie Durand)