Christmas in the Middle East.

So what’s it like to spend Christmas in the Middle East?

Earlier this week I wrote something for the Telegraph observing that “Christmas in Doha can be a little bit like looking for the lid to a tupperware container in the back of your cupboard, you know it’s there – you just have to search for it”.

It’s possible if you’re living in the west, Christmas is just starting to drive you a little crazy. As you’re weaving your way around the supermarket car park looking for a space, you realize Mariah has told you all she wants for Christmas at least four times today. Carols are on high rotation in every department store and every defunct television series from Charles in Charge to Gilmore Girls is currently running their “Merry Little Christmas” special.

That’s not happening in my neck of the woods.

Christmas travelers fall in to two groups, those who went home and those who didn’t. Those who are home are currently surrounded by family and are lavishing themselves in local produce and Christmas tradition. Those who stayed are dealing with ghosts of Christmas past and maybe hoping to begin a few new Christmas traditions of their own.

We’ve tinseled the tree, stocked the advent calendar and put the Merry Christmas sign at the front door, but there’s still something missing. We’ve decorated gingerbread houses, written our lists and checked them twice while talking turkey and trimmings, but still, I feel like I’m searching for something.

So what is it? What’s missing? Do I need a mall lined with Christmas trees and window decorations? Do I need to be constantly reminded of how many shopping days I have left? Do I need the office Christmas party, the influx of breathalyzers and the weather man pointing out exactly where Santa is at each point of the globe?

I don’t think that’s it. Although it might help, it’s not what’s missing. It’s what’s about to be missed.

I want to open a Christmas cracker with my Dad and see him take out the paper hat and try and it put on his head, it’ll rip for sure, it always does. When he does it I’ll remember my Grandfather who did exactly the same thing, we’re a family of fat heads.  I want to see my mother rush to Woolies on Christmas eve for the kilo of prawns and the cream for the seafood sauce. I want to a have a glass of champagne with my sister, while we plot our escape from the kitchen for a quick drink at the pub. I want to watch the Little Travelers accost my brother in law, making him put together the lego/scalelectric/remote control car in his hungover state. And when it’s all over and we’ve fought and been our best passive aggressive selves we’ll nibble on cold cuts while the television floats between the boxing day test and the Sydney to Hobart.

This year, we’ll be spending Christmas Day with a group of about 25 friends in Doha. They’ll be giggles, secret santas and hopefully a few too many glasses of champagne while the Little Travelers play with friends on the beach. And although there will be no boxing day, no homemade seafood sauce and no ham for breakfast, they’ll be Skype with Grandmas and texts with friends all over the world. It will feel like Christmas because they’ll be Little Travelers and presents under the tree, it will just be a different Christmas. It will be Christmas in the Middle East.

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  • catrionaling

    It’s funny what you miss, for me it’s the dark and the cold, coming into a house with lights glowing, the ‘proper’ fir tree whose needles are already making guest appearances in the most unexpected places and the gentle bickering of adult siblings reunited.  This year my three brothers are all home in Scotland with the grandparents and I find my heart clenching at the emails discussing food and the play the cousins will put on – and I wish my children were there, but then again they’ll get a morning swim on the beach, a glorious medley of seafood and traditional trimmings and parents in their swimmers – that is if the sun ever shines in Sydney again – not looking good at the moment.  Have a fabulous Middle East Christmas, champagne in the sunshine is hard to beat. Cx

  • vegemitevix

    Tim Minchin has a song about Christmas for him being chardonnay in the sun with his Mum. I can’t listen to that song at this time of the year, it just makes me cry. I’m trying to feel Christmassy, I really am, but the spirit of the season eludes me. Dammit, I miss those buckets of prawns.

  • Kirsty Rice 4kids20suitcases

    I LOVE that Tim Minchin sound, it’s on the playlist and yes it gets me EVERYTIME!

  • Linda (Me)

    I hope you have a great day anyway and that you find some new traditions begin.
    Take care !

  • MsCaroline

    Things are very similar here.  I’m trying to maintain consistency for the sake of the kids (who are teenagers and therefore don’t seem to care much) but Christmas in Seoul is a whole different animal.  There are little glimpses of it here and there, but the mass frenzy we have in the West is -happily or sadly – missing.  

  • Sydney Shop Girl

    Thank you for this insight into your Christmas. 

    Take care and best wishes for the festive season.

    SSG xxx

  • Kirrily @ Sunny Side Up

    First of all, you are spending Christmas with more people than us. That is no mean feat from what I gather! Also? You mentioned Charles In Charge AND The Gilmore Girls and whether you despise them or not, that earns you a place in my cool books (for what it’s worth….).

  • Valentinavaselli

    ciao Kirsty, I wish you and your family a good Christmas time. We will drive with our little traveler from Geneva to my husband’s family in Poland (1700 km under the snow that is finally hitting Europe right now ) but I’ll miss my parents in Italy,  being a couple of two foreigners it always means on Christmas to share the situation of many kids of divorced parents: you cant have them all 🙁 Being grown up in Northern Italy I can’t imagine Christmas without snow and mountains and I always wondered how it felt e australians to have it in summer but reading your posts I understand that the Christmas spirit isnt about the snow, everywhere in the world  is about family.

  • KJ

    Wonderful post, Kirsty.

    This is my first Christmas away from “family” (include the in-laws in that) and it’s something I’ve wanted for a really long time.  A Christmas untethered by familial expectations. One where we are free to steer our own Christmas course.

    And, yet, something is missing.

    We have all the trimmings – tree, lights, carols, pressies – but Singapore just does not have the Christmas vibe that I have known my whole life.

    That’s the best I can do to sum it up – “It’s the vibe of the thing” to quote from The Castle. 

    The vibe is all wrong.

  • bronnie marquardt

    Thank you for your insight into your Christmas. I think it’s alway a bit strange whenever you are not at home, particularly for children. Regardless, I hope you have a wonderful festive time together. And the main thing is you are together. Merry Christmas. All the way from the other side of the world. xo

  • Mrs TeePot

    I hope it goes well, try to enjoy the differences and not focus on those things you miss.

  • Anna Millie

    Great post as usual. Last Christmas was the first one I spent away from home. And although I did miss the extended family, it was great to be with MY family – hubby and the kids. A lot less stressful than carting kids and everything else overseas and have jet lagged kids, and overweight luggage. Enjoy your Christmas. Enjoy the new traditions.

  • Ellorac

    Lovely insight Kirsty – am loving christmas this year here in Doha what a community spirit we have going this year in Doha!
    Merry Christmas
    Ellora xx

  • Kathy

    A group of 25 friends in Doha? Wow. Clearly, you’ve been living here longer than we have! I hope to get there.

    Your insights on Christmas really got me. All those little, family-based traditions are what brought us back to Canada for the holidays. And while I feel the pull back to Doha now that the festivities are doen, I’m so glad we made it back here (27 hours of travel included!)

  • Groovy Grandma

    Your post has reminded me of the 10 Christmas’s that I had while I was in Riyadh. You are right, it is about the people you share it with. Although Riyadh is definitely not a Christian Country, it always seemed as though It was Eid about the same time, and the city was decorated with wonderful lights and beautiful decorations. The shops were full of “Seasonal” stuff, Christmas trees (plastic) were available in plain brown wrappers under the counter, and often Carols were playing as the Indian shopkeepers had their shops decorated with Christmas tree lights which came complete with appropriate music. I can tell you, it is quite weird wandering around a shop thinking, I know that tune, and then realising that it was ‘Once in Royal David’s City”. I remember wonderful celebrations out in the desert, with 20 other expats dressed to the ‘9’s in festive ware on the top, and shorts and boots below. Sitting down at a long trestle table covered in a good linen cloth with candles etc, and eating a delicious Christmas dinner, which included everybody’s favourite food – and homemade wine and beer. One of our lot always dressed up as The Main Man and distributed pressies all around. I think that it shows that Christmas can be anywhere, and although it is wonderful to be with your own extended family, it is the making of memorable Christmas’s wherever you are, which are the enduring memories. I still remember mine. Have a wonderful time as you share your Christmas in the Desert with family and friends.