Monday, December 10, 2012

Throwing out the old to make way for the new, and a Hannukah celebration

Last night, I was honored to be invited by the Ambassador of Israel and his lovely wife to their home for the official celebration of Hannukah.

As it's a very special event and they only invited close friends, I decided to attend this event and stay here the whole evening, instead of hopping around from one party to another. In this, I was inspired by the good ambassador himself.

The Ambassador and the rabbi


We all have two or three events a night these days, but one day recently, at a party, the Israeli ambassador said to me: "We've decided to just choose one event a night for this Christmas season, and to stay there and give it our full attention."

Lighting the candles for Hannukah

Since then, this is what I've been trying to do as well -- giving certain important people and events to me quality time, and making good on what I say and promise.

I've already written about the latter in a previous blog entry, but let me just reiterate that I've been saying the sometimes empty phrase "Let's meet up" so much less, and following up on those people I've actually said this line to. I've only been trying to say "let's meet up" or "let's get together" with people I really intend to meet, instead of using these phrases as empty goodbye remarks.

In other words, I'm going to focus on real relationships from now on.


Hannukah, which is also known as the Jewish Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The festival begins with the lighting of the menorah, which is a candlebra with nine candles.

One candle is lit for every night of the festival, and the ninth candle is in place to be used as a regular candle, if needed.


A Jewish Hannukah feast

The very intimate ceremony, which was then followed by a delicious dinner that Madame had supervised herself using recipes from her family, was attended by several ambassadors and key members of the Jewish community.

Baklava was flown in from Israel

Madame prepared couscous and all sorts of Israeli specialties, and she also had her tables groaning with sweets, as apparently eating sweets on Hannukah is a well-observed tradition.

Couscous and lots of sweets last night

The rabbi of the Jewish synagogue in Manila presided over the lighting of the candles and explained the ceremony to the non-Jews.

After the candles were lit, we all sat down to supper, and I sat with the ambassadors of Greece, the Czech Republic and Chile. I'd just had a very inspiring lunch with the Ambassador of Greece last week and tonight she and I continued our discussions on things to do as the old year winds down and the new one begins.

The Czech Ambassador stage-managed this photograph, by the way.
He told me exactly how to take this photo when he saw me clicking away.


I said to the Greek ambassador: "I love staying in Manila during the holidays, and especially between Christmas and New Year, when so many people are away."

It's true. I travel every month of every year -- and more often than not, I'm on a Travelife every other week -- so I don't need to get away for the holidays. My idea of bliss is to stay home, especially as it's so nice and quiet in the city, and traffic is non-existent.


Home-made goodies from Madame Bar-On of Israel

Fortunately, it's a pretty perfect combination, too, as I'm staying in Manila but having dinners with friends every single night -- and lots of these are with friends flying into Manila from abroad for the holidays.

I just looked at that week from Christmas to New Year's earlier, and I realized I'd given away my last free evening the other day.

Madame's beautiful spread of sweets last night


Then I added to the ambassador, as it's her first Manila Christmas: "It's always quiet in Manila between Christmas and New Year's, and that's what I love about it most.

I have enough time to think about many things -- to reflect on the year that's ending and to plan for the year coming up. I want to begin 2013 lighter, by getting rid of mental, emotional and material clutter."

It's impossible to do this in my everyday life, as I usually can't even find a spare minute on most days in Manila.

But on this last week of each year, this is always what I try my best to do. I don't just mean cleaning house either -- because getting rid of emotional and pyschological clutter is even more important.

I feel really heavy right now, for some reason, so I can't wait to de-clutter my life in a few weeks. This year, I'm going to throw out many things that are old and stale in my life, to make way for the new year, new opportunities and new luck.

Still part of the beautiful Hannukah feast last night


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