The Burner Blog: Holidays Abroad

Taylor Burner

Feb. 13, 2014

Former women’s basketball player Taylor Burner is playing professionally for Petah Tikva in Israel and will be sharing her experiences with in the “Burner Blog.” Check back for updates.

Holidays overseas are nothing short of unusual. Once October rolls around, there aren’t any ghosts or witches or orange and black streamers lining the stores.  In November, we don’t see any turkeys or pilgrim characters. December doesn’t fill your heart with joy and Christmas cheer, just some blue and silver decorations. Even Hanukah isn’t the commercial holiday we make it back at home. 

My first holiday overseas, Thanksgiving, was one of the stranger days.  It was unusual to open my eyes and not be salivating over the smells coming from the kitchen. It wasn’t until about mid-day that I actually realized that it was indeed Thanksgiving Day. As my day went on normally, I finally got a FaceTime call from the states. I was elated to see my family lounging in the kitchen, cooking Thanksgiving classics, and singing our favorite tunes. Everything was the same, except me. I wasn’t there physically, but thank goodness for the Internet!  As we spent hours on the iPad, each family member passed me around like a newborn baby, each wanting their turn to talk and fill me in on the happenings of the day, and of course, the family drama. Once my time expired-- I had to go to practice-- I felt better, less depressed (haha) and more like myself. 

A few weeks later, Hanukah rolled around. Growing up, this was not a holiday that was celebrated in my house, so I was so excited when one of my Israeli teammates, Ayala, invited our team to her parents’ house in the North for Hanukah festivities.  As we walked into the home, we were surrounded with love and family. Her home was filled with the wonderful aromas of a home cooked meal, something that seemed foreign to me at the time.  Once we were all settled in, the kippa’s were handed out to the men (head piece’s), and Ayala’s father began the religious service – a few short prayers that he sung while those that knew sang along. Then finally, the food was served! Now, I have had some huge family dinners in my time, but this was unlike anything I had ever seen. There was so much food!  So many options!  It was like never-ending food supply! It would be a huge understatement to say the food was good. After dinner, we had dessert and an impromptu team sing-along as Ayala played the guitar. For certain, it is nights like these that I will remember most about being with Hapoel Petah Tikva. This night was the first night that I felt I was making a new family in Israel, and started worrying less about my family at home. 



Then of course, it was Christmastime…everywhere but here. No Santa. No elves. No trees. No lights. No snow!  Now this was the weirdest period of time. It could have been a regular day in April and I wouldn’t have known the difference, ha! To the credit of my Israeli teammates, we decided to do a Secret Santa within our team.  Each person picked a name out of a hat and spent 100 NIS (New Israeli Shekels,) about $30. Surprisingly, I think I am one of the only people who actually kept their Secret Santa a secret! After practice one night we all met at our teammate, Keren Mozes’, beautiful mansion by the water. My Secret Santa was my Israeli teammate, Shani. She knew me too well – she got me a Nike shirt and of course, CANDY!! After many laughs, gifts, food, and spontaneous dance parties, we went home with just the right amount of Christmas cheer to get us through the holiday away from home. 

The thought of being overseas for the holidays actually made me sick, at first. But it wasn’t until I experienced Hanukah at Ayala’s and Christmas at Mozes’ that I realized that it’s okay to have my family at home while making a new Israeli family. Of course, I missed my parents and sisters, nieces and nephews. But in family, there is always room for more, and that is what I did here-- expanded my family.  Nevertheless, I can’t wait to come home and re-create all the holidays I missed with my family and friends. If you’re looking for an invite, consult Sam Landers, she’s the party planner!

Until next time, Seawolves…