Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The city that Christmas forgot

IT'S A magnet for Christian pilgrims and capital of the Holy Land, yet somehow Jerusalem is the city that Christmas forgot. Imagine getting to five days to go - or is it four, I've lost track - and not hearing a single Cliff Richard tune in a shop, eating a mince pie, overdoing it on the festive drinking, maxing your credit card on pointless presents, or preparing to spend hours queuing for that Kelly Bronze you'll overcook only to remember why turkey is a once-a-year dish.

Not that I'm complaining; December here is proving something of a joyous release from the consumerist celebration formally known as Christmas. Not to mention an excuse for being stingy and lazy. Luckily Louis at three is just about young enough not to know any better, although I fear it's the last year I'd get away with giving him one of Daddy J's socks to hang up on Christmas Eve (yes, really - well, it fits a tangerine, what more does he need?).

My initial excitement at spending the Christmas build-up barely miles from where it all - allegedly - kicked off was somewhat tempered when a Jewish friend pointed out that even the handful of Christians here are largely Orthodox so don't celebrate until January 7 or even later. And to the Jews and Muslims, the 25th really is just another day. In any case, the Jews are busy with their Hanakkah festivities, which the cynical might say conveniently overlap our own and include the main tenets, namely gaudy lights and presents, but I couldn't possibly comment.

All that aside, I feel we've done our bit: the tree - small and plastic and adorned with homemade origami decorations - is up and twinkling with some lights I picked up in the sole Christmas shop the Christian quarter of the Old City had to offer. All nine Christmas cards we've received (and that includes the extra ones for Louis and Raf from the grandparents) are up and I've listened to Stevie Wonder's Christmas CD. I've even scored us a table at Jerusalem's top restaurant for lunch on the 25th: try doing that in a city that actually celebrates Christmas. Best of all, turkey will be strictly off the menu. Turns out being here is win-win. With apologies to anyone who might have hoped for a card.

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