It was always before Christmas that we got that thrill.We 'moslem' girls at the boarding section were always part of the joy, part of the glow that overtook everyone's hearts there and then. We were also part of the anual celebration that turned over all the despotic rules and dicipline , and deleted the conventional "hush hush" attitude of all the nuns, teachers and all those in charge of harnessing our wild spirits . It was only during Christmas celebrations that we were all within the "safe zone"!
For ten years I, among others ,have been a part of this -almost the same- celebration.Singing the same songs, pretending astonished when Santa appeared , expressing facination over the Christmas tree decorations ,(we happened to be the ones who decorated it , this being part of our chores related to pre-Christmas preperations). But I loved it every year just as much . Maybe now is the time to remember those moments of happiness, to speak of those who gave me the chance to be part of their rituals, jubilations and even their lives.
Talking about a boarding school in Palestine in those days , is like recalling the details of a movie back from the sixties or seventies.It was something like a dream.Preparations would start months before the Big Day,the 24th of December, the time for our Grand school celebration.We would practice Christmas carrols, in all three languages.I n English there was :"Silent Night", "OH Christmas Tree","Joyfull Joyfull".In Arabic it was "Lailet 3eid",and in German it was "OH Tannen Baum" and "Lustig Lustig".........
It was not a bit out of the normal , for a moslem girl to be playing the role of an angel, or Virgin Mary or even a sheep .It was the season when we were all treated to chocolate, lots of good chocolate,sent to our Sisters(nuns) from their families back home in Germany.At night , they shared with us their tea--with all the colors and flavours of German fruits and herbs like cherry, oranges, cinamon, just to mention a couple.We were their families then ,we ,the young moslem girls from Gaza and some Arab Countries were their only Christmas company, and them the lonely German nuns serving God and us endlessly .Together we sat around a beautifully lit tree , in our small playroom, shivering and almost hugging the gasoline stove,with the aroma of roasted orange peels filling the air( our boarding school Sister used to put orange rind in a clean metal lid of' Kiwi' *shoe polish and leave it to roast on top of the stove...and....voila....homemade scents!).
Eversince then, the Christmas spirit has captured me.It even haunts me untill this very day, echoeing my nostalgic yearning to those long bygone times .It persistantly triggers memories of those people who have left this world to be with God , He whom they chose to serve throughout their youth untill the very last moments of their lives.I still see the shimering lights of that huge tree, and see us(kids then)running loose out of our classes to join the singing chorus of mischievous girls chanting that song
......come my comrades join the chorus
......Fa la la la la, la la la la
happy hour are(...)** before us
Fa la la la la , la la la la ......
And today Christmas comes again...We are not the kids that once were . So many dreams were lost on our way towards growing up, and I really miss my typical back then annual celebration, my German Sisters and the colorful aromatic tea blends .As empty as the days seem to be without those colorful details,I stick to those memories, retrieve the faces, the words ...and hope for a differnt Christmas.., not that of colors, hyms and gifts...but that of justice,normality ....and dignity!
*Kiwi: a famous -probably English-brand for cake shoe polish .Almost every Plalestinian home used Kiwi shoe polish, in a flat round tin container.
**(...) I probably forgot the right word...it has been years.....