Sunday, 13 December 2009

A Christmas in the Middle East

We're currently in the UK on another madcap dash around the country visiting family, before returning to the Gulf a few days before Christmas. It's a beautiful morning here, just above freezing with the sun out and low in the sky, one of my favourite kinds of day. I'm glad we managed to find time do this, as there's nothing quite like sharing this time of year with those you love - particularly given the terrible time my husband and his father have been through in the last four months. I feel like it's a perfect compromise, as my husband didn't manage to get Christmas off this year. To be honest, I've always preferred the run-up to Christmas more than the actual day itself anyhow. This way we get to have fun with our families, see a bit of the UK, stock up on some Christmas essentials we can't buy at home, and generally indulge all our British foibles for a little while. After all, this will be our last visit here until the baby is born, as long-haul flying will soon become too dangerous and uncomfortable for me to make it worthwhile.

What has really surprised me recently is how nice preparing for a Christmas in the Gulf has actually been. Obviously we live in a Muslim country, but I have been pleasantly surprised to see Christmas decorations (including nativity scenes!) widely available in the shops, and Christmas decorations up in the shopping centres and restaurants. We had a wonderful luxurious meal at a 5* hotel the other day for my husband's birthday, and there was an absolutely enormous tree there - it must have been more than 12 feet tall! (Oh, and a human sized gingerbread house.. they don't do things by halves in the Gulf states!)

I've also enjoyed gathering the ingredients for our traditional British Christmas cake (lots of dried fruit, brandy, marzipan and icing) and putting up our tree, which is the hugest we have ever had, even in the UK! And I also *think* I have our Christmas meal sorted, having even found a Turkey imported from the USA!

All in all, somehow it feels fine that we'll be spending the Christmas week so far from "home". As you know, we'll hopefully be spending Christmas Eve in the USA together, and part of Christmas Day on a plane (in Business Class, thank God...!) So this year isn't traditional for us in any sense, and I'm really getting to like that. This year has made me take myself out of my comfort zone, and I've been amazed by how much I've enjoyed the results, despite the obvious challenges involved. Sometimes you can really surprise yourself.

And despite getting used to a cold, frosty (and let's face it, often wet and dreary!) UK Christmas, I'm quite looking forward to a warm and sunny Christmas for a change. It's all rather more authentic, anyhow. This is where Christmas began, after all...

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