Getting used to December not being the end of the year

  • BenitaLevin
December has always marked the start of the year end slow-down. For as long as I can remember, we’ve called it the silly season in the news world. Schools are about to wrap up the year, businesses start winding down their work load and final holiday plans are being confirmed.
by BENITA LEVIN | Dec 07, 2017

It's time to start taking your foot off the accelerator and focus on some much needed time-out.

December in Israel is a different story. While I haven’t heard any Christmas carols in the shops, people gathered outside Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity at the start of the month for the traditional lighting of a giant Christmas tree and fireworks. Thousands of Christian pilgrims and tourists flock to the area to mark the start of the festive season.

But  December 25 is not a public holiday here. More jarring is the thought that January 1 is just another normal work and school day. I have triple checked! While many Anglos apparently do have their own private New Year parties, and I’ve been assured that Tel Aviv may be quite festive on the night, the first of January 2018 will be like any other start of any other month.

At first, I wasn’t sure why this seemed so, well… wrong. It certainly wasn’t about missing out on a huge New Year’s Eve party. It was definitely about the psychological closure, marking the end of a year. The end of a chapter - reflection on how that chapter had been - and thoughts around the clean slate for a new year, a new chapter.

I’m definitely not talking about New Year’s resolutions. For me, any sudden decision to be healthier, cut down on caffeine or exercise more, has a life span of around 10 days! It’s more about having a clean slate from the first of January - a time to think about what one hopes to focus on long term during the year ahead.

September is the New January?

It all makes perfect sense. The reason there is no official New Year’s Eve bash, no countdown and no day off on the first of January, is because here, the start of the year really is September.

It comes at the end of a sweltering two-month holiday in June and July, and coincides with the start of the school year. But most significantly, the year starts whenever the country marks the festival of Rosh Hashanah. The apple and honey for a sweet new year, the family time and the many meals mark the beginning of the Hebrew calendar year.

The appropriate time to start the year with a clean slate here is obviously the Yom Kippur fast. One doesn’t need to be a religious scholar to understand the significance of the time of reflection - a time to look back on the previous year and a time to focus on being a better person in the year ahead.

Do not forget the doughnuts

December holidays for new olim from South Africa are about to change dramatically – no beach in Clifton or Plettenberg Bay. Instead, a winter break dotted with an array of calorie-defying doughnuts, complete with toppings and a plastic injection-like tube of chocolate, icing or custard. These are all in the name of the festival of Chanukah.

Camping is said to be a popular pastime during the eight-day school break - for those who are happy to brave what are expected to be much colder temperatures.

And for those of us who are used to treating December as a time to mentally unwind ahead of the new calendar year, I suppose there’s nothing stopping me from keeping that personal ritual, while sitting at work on the first of January, with a doughnut at the coffee break?

New food of the week – Chavitah yarokavegetable omelette, with spinach, onion and any other vegetable combination. Outstanding!

Phrase of the week – Chag molad sameach – merry christmas

Smile of the week – meeting an American visitor to the country. When I told him I was from South Africa, he asked: “Do you know my friend from Nigeria?”



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