Family is hugely important to us. And when you live so far away from them you find new ways to still have your family close. We have taken advantage of technology to bring family closer to us and still feel part of the action. We record videos of our kids and send those out when the time change means we can't connect. And the biggest thing of all is we make our friends like our family and gather together with them to eat and make merry.
As an expat family we work so hard to make the holiday season feel like home for our kids. We want them to have the same joys and excitements we had growing up. Some of those things are easy to accomplish, some are more difficult and some require making a decision if having it the same is worth the extra cost. In Dubai, I was so surprised to learn that they do celebrate Christmas despite it being a Muslim country and best of all is that everything is "Merry Christmas"! All the malls have their Christmas decor out and the holiday window displays can rival anything you can find in the US. All the home decor stores and supermarkets have the Christmas section or aisle and you can get stockings, Santa hats, garland, ornaments and lights. Plus, we have Marks and Spencer and Ikea (bless them both!) that can make you feel all warm and Christmas-y inside. Finding all the usual holiday food from home can be hit or miss. Sometimes everything is in stock and sometimes you are just out of luck. For example, pumpkin pie filling is a hot commodity here and among us expat moms there becomes a black market for the stuff. One mom will find it, buy every last can and then sell to her friends who need their fix. French's Fried Onions and Butterball Turkeys are also quick to fly off the shelves if they make it here at all. Other food items you might modify, like instead of the Christmas ham just getting a Christmas ham steak. Then there are the things you can get here but have to decide how much it really is worth, like having the real Christmas tree. Believe it or not you can find them here but at 200 USD a tree and knowing its been on a boat for a few weeks and is probably past its prime, makes you think twice about getting the fake one in the box you can use again next year.
So how do people who stay in Dubai actually celebrate? Leading up to the big day you can make the rounds of the mall Santa's . . . just prepare yourself and the kids for Santa possibly looking less Scandinavian and more Asian. There is a lovely group here that organizes an evening of caroling out in the desert. You can download the list of songs ahead of time and then join everyone out the in the dunes for a beautiful night of singing. At my oldest son's school the Parents Association puts together a lovely holiday bazaar and Christmas party to get everyone in the spirit. And they top it off with Santa riding in on a camel, I mean it is Dubai after all!
We are so blessed to be able to see so much of the world. Sharing our family traditions from home with the kiddos and learning about how our new international family of friends celebrate Christmas has been such an honor and privilege. The world and its treasures never ceases to amaze me and I'm so thankful this holiday season for the experience of it and the chance to open my children's eyes to the beauty and magic that is all around them. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night (or day, depending on what time zone you are in)!