I awoke at seven on Christmas morning to the sound of jackhammers going hard at demolishing the building next door and traffic roaring up and down the narrow street with the cacophony of car horns that is the reality of everyday (and night) in Tel Aviv. It was my first Christmas outside of Australia, and I soon learned that in this part of the Jewish nation of Israel, it’s just another workday.
To be honest, in the years prior I’d grown a bit blasé about Christmas. The commercialisation, the decorations going up the moment Halloween was over, the endless marketing and advertising drive to consume, the fetishisation of new and shiny objects, the blaring of carols — either the super-religious ones or ones about snow and cold. I related less and less to the whole affair.
Yet it wasn’t until I was in a place where there really was no Christmas that I realised I actually missed it.
Later, when I moved away from Australia to Los Angeles to chase the dream, I began to spend more and more Christmases away from home. The Americans did what Australians do around Christmas, but with a million times more intensity — so I withdrew further and further from the commercial aspect of it all.
However, one of the best Christmases of my life ended up being in the USA, just a week after my then wife had asked me for a divorce.
Like any good divorcee, I was sleeping in the spare bedroom at my mate Nick’s house. I’d spend my days not doing much — mostly staring into space, mouth agape — wondering what the hell I was supposed to do now.
Fully expecting to do exactly the same thing for the next week, two days before Christmas Nick said, “Me and the family are heading down to the beach for Christmas. You’re coming. Pack your things, bring the dog, we leave in an hour.”
So while I was extraordinarily sad (perfectly normal considering what was happening), I felt wonderfully uplifted by this gesture of kindness and goodwill.