One of the things I love best about living in Israel is that my children’s lives now revolve around the Jewish and Israeli holidays that the moon brings. We are not blanketed by Halloween or Christmas symbols, decorations, and customs — and the excitement that accompanies those in the US — so we can conveniently forget about them and focus on our own holidays. There’s no need to actively eschew those things; they are simply not on our radar screen. Which is, right now, all lit up with pre-Chanukah fervor.
Kids, still developing their perspective on the world, more easily adapt to change, so it’s not surprising that mine have re-anchored themselves to their new and improved reality. What has surprised me is my own rather seamless acculturation. If someone or something doesn’t remind me, I simply forget all about the coming and going of the American holidays, both secular and Christian.
This paradigm shift hits home especially today on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was always one of my favorite holidays. My family celebrated in the traditional way, gathering for a special feast with all the trimmings. Likewise, my in-laws celebrate the day as well, so we’d alternate years between the two sides of the family. The most appealing aspect of the day — more than the delicious food and the big sales, of course — was the chance to get together with family without any religious obligations or ritual observances. Just a plain old, “because we’re family” gathering. The wintry feel of the day provided a nice foil to the cozy warmth of the proceedings.
Yet, as much as I loved Thanksgiving all my life in the States, now I barely realize it’s here. And I hardly miss it. Everywhere I turn Chanukah is in the air. It would take a certain degree of mental effort to muster up the nostalgia for Thanksgiving — and why bother? My life as a Jew in the Jewish state is so full, so purposeful. I’m proud to be an American, and wish only the best for America, but home for the holidays has a whole new meaning now. And that’s what I’m most thankful for.