Ellie Hyman writes...
Living in a house in which I am the only Jewish person, and in fact, the only Jewish person that any of my housemates has ever met, has provided for several interesting conversations.
The one that took the biscuit however, happened last night. In discussing Christmas plans, one of my friends told me that it makes her really sad that I have never experienced a traditional Christmas before.
She says that it’s the one day of the year that she looks forward to (side note: in consideration of her unrelenting Christmas spirit, I’m fairly certain that she is a Christmas elf in disguise); the one day of the year that the entire family congregates and comes together for quality time, good food and silly jokes.
When she said this to me, I couldn’t help but laugh.
Granted, while she is at home waking up at 5am to open presents, her mother in the kitchen preparing dinner for 20, I am in bed fast asleep; for me, it is just another day. Maybe I’ll read a book, maybe I’ll watch a film.
We’ll probably have Chinese for dinner. The Chinese takeaways are the only ones open on Christmas Day. However, the day that she looks forward to is one that I experience at least six or seven times a year, and, on a smaller scale (aside from the food, which is always on the same scale, if not bigger), every single week on Friday night. My mother and I laugh around Christmas time that families spend weeks planning and preparing for a meal that we pull off every single week without fail.
The friend in question said that she feels sorry for me that I have never experienced the magical air that she, and so many other people across the country, feels on Christmas morning. I told her she couldn’t be more wrong; I feel it every Friday morning.
‘Doesn’t it get boring though? Surely if you have it every week it doesn’t seem as special.’ I considered this, but concluded that she was wrong. Friday night never feels less special to me than it did the week before; not once have I thought; ‘oh no, it’s Shabbat again, we only did this last week.’
I could never imagine limiting the experience of putting on my best clothes, sitting down to decadent food and good wine with my nearest and dearest, to once a year.
Shabbat, for me, is my weekly reset, my chance to take a breath and recharge for the week ahead. Plus, for all its pomp and circumstance, Christmas still doesn’t have chicken soup…
Ellie Hyman is a second year student at Durham University studying English literature. She grew up in Manchester and is half Israeli.