This Christmas, Israel celebrated with chocolate eggs.
The country is awash with Cadbury Cream Eggs. I had forgotten the joy of peeling off the foil, admiring the ridge pattern, biting through the thick chocolate, and starting on the fondant — first the white and then the “yolk”.
It is a daft gimmick for selling sugar-filled chocolate, but never grows old. I should know — we have consumed dozens of them in my house in December.
You see, Cadbury chocolate is normally at a premium. It is the precious stuff that visitors bring in their suitcases, savoured square by square.
But then my favourite person of 2019 — I wish I knew their identity to thank them — came along and decided to gather up thousands of unsold eggs and ship them to Israel. Chocolate chiefs realised in the 1980s, when they tried to sell Cream Eggs year-round and found it was a bad strategy, that to keep customers in key markets keen, they needed to pull them off the shelves soon after Easter.
This year, they made their way to discount stores across Israel, where staff have no idea what they are and shove them into the pick’n’mix section. Here, they are sold by weight. Never mind beating the price of chocolate imports, they undercut Israeli chocolate.
Small packs of Cadbury Mini Eggs are in the shekel-treat basket. There are also some good quality gold-wrapped chocolate bunnies on sale. The strong shekel, that bane of British tourists who visit here, has done wonders for our appeal as a dumping ground for leftover seasonal stock.
The exporters and importers also get a helping hand from Israel’s calendar. Last year’s Christmas lights are this year’s “Succah lights”. Tinsel and frilly foil decorations become kishutim for the succah, sold by students wearing tzitzit alongside their stock of lulavs and etrogs.
And then there is Purim. The dream of every Halloween costume wholesaler, it is as if the lots that were thrown all those years ago that set the date of Purim (and gave the festival its name) landed thus to help the geezers trying to shift 2,000 Boris Johnson wigs.
As the Halloween traders sit down in November to assess which outfits failed to appeal to the trick-or-treat crew, Israeli buyers are working on their catalogues for Purim. And if the price is right, they will take what is going.
Some of it is innocent enough, and it can create an amusing dissonance between intended effect of outfit and the impression of the Israeli customer. Most of the Boris wigs will be worn by Israelis who have no idea they refer to the British prime minister, and there was a great photo flying around social media of a Charedi family (above left) with all the little boys in matching outfits that were intended for Santa’s Little Helpers.
But being a dumping ground for leftovers also means that Purim has been sexualised. Next to kids’ outfits you will find leather-trimmed French maid costumes with fishnets and outfits for provocative policewomen and “slutty nurses”. Whatever dominates the Halloween market — an apt verb given the nature of some costumes — makes it to the shelves for Purim.
Businesses repurposing Halloween stuff for Purim should thank Netflix for priming the market. So many of us are binge watching American series like How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock and The Big Bang Theory in which dressing up means Halloween and Halloween means women dressing sexy.
Seen on our screens many times a year, this has become a more common reference point for dressing up than the tamer Purim traditions of becoming Mordechai, Esther, or a putting on a silly outfit you concoct at home.
So what can outsiders learn from all of this? If you really love Israel and Israelis, the fight against BDS can wait — there are three things I am asking you to do.
First, buy the very worst Halloween outfits you can find next year, and get everyone you know to do the same. That way, all the inappropriate drivel will end up by Purim time in your local Oxfam shop and not at our hamentashen parties.
Second, preach to your neighbours about the environmental impact of tree lights and the beauty of an energy-efficient Christmas. The guilt trip is intended to create a surplus of lights, because the selection of Succah lights that made it here over the last few years was rather poor.
And most important of all, stay away from the Cadbury Christmas selection boxes, and encourage everyone you know to do the same. Say whatever it takes — for the sake of Israel.
I have my eye on the big box with Dairy Milk, Crunchie, Wispa, Curly Wurly and more. I reckon that if UK sales are dire enough, by February we will be able to pick them up here for a shekel.