It’s four-thirty in the afternoon on December 6 at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and the sun is starting to set. The golden rays come in through the windows and settle on my crew of four, standing at a tiny table, inhaling some Texas tacos and waiting for our airplane to arrive. It’s day two of our three-day trip and we are all lost in thought. My fellow flight attendant, Zohar, sighs a little, looking at her watch.
“I’m sad that I’m missing my parents’ Hanukkah party this year,” Zohar says.
At sundown the Festival of Lights will begin, kicking off eight days of celebration, gifts, games and remembrance. Everyone who observes the rituals of Judaism celebrates this important holiday in their own way, but for an Israeli-Canadian-American flight attendant who is scheduled to work during Hanukkah, you can bet that this year’s celebration is going to be unique.
Zohar smiles and pulls out a tiny bag of something shiny. “Hey, who wants some gelt?” We gather around the table to look at the candy. We ask about the significance of the small chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. Zohar explains some of the games traditionally played during Hanukkah celebrations, and shows off the prizes. We ask questions; we hear stories. The conversation moves around the circle as we start sharing our family traditions and histories, our ways of celebrating the holidays.
The airplane arrives and the moment is over, but I take a snapshot in my mind.
And that’s what this job is about. A million different traditions and backgrounds, each airline worker from a different place in the country or even the world, bringing their own narratives and celebrations to the collective table.
This weekend has definitely been amazing. Zohar and I decided to kick off the night before Hanukkah by going to a punk show just off of Sixth Street in Austin. The smell of sawdust, sweat and spilled beer; the bodies crashing about, Zohar and I laughing and dancing. At one point, Zohar throws gelt up into the crowd and shouts Happy Hanukkah! Mazel! It’s a celebration; it’s a new tradition. This is how we cabin crew celebrate the season while on a three-day trip.
Fast forward: It’s noon in Sunny San Diego on day three of this trip, and I am enjoying an almond croissant and cappuccino at a tiny bakery in Little Italy. There’s Italian opera blasting and the employees are shouting to each other and greeting customers with a Ciao, bella and slinging perfect little macchiatos and cannollis across the marble counter to the receiving arms of grateful guests. It’s one of those moments that is so chaotic and perfect that I can barely stand it.
I have the day off in San Diego and I’m choosing to celebrate one of my favorite holidays, albeit a little late. Yesterday was Saint Nicholas’ Day, the traditional feast day of the saint and a day that I have fond memories of. St. Nicks’ Day was always an exciting day to bring presents to your classmates and your teacher, and if you were good, you might get a small present from your parents.
My treat this year is splurging on coffee and sunshine. I check my inbox and notice a few e-mails, including an e-card with a gift certificate from my boyfriend’s mom, which is sweet. My boyfriend and I will exchange our St. Nick’s gifts in a few days when we are home again together. As always, the holidays will just have to work around this crazy flight attendant life.
This crazy flight attendant life has taken me from Seattle to Austin and San Diego in the past three days.
I’ve been discovering new traditions everywhere I go. I can’t wait to see where I land next, and I can’t wait to keep celebrating the season.
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