I’ve tried. And tried. And tried some more. I cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner to get myself kick started. I relented and even though we’re leaving on the 12th December, I put the tree up. I spent the week going out and doing the festive social thing. I wrote my cards. I even wrapped presents and stuck on the Christmas CD while I did it. But it doesn’t matter what I try, I simply can’t get into the Christmas spirit in the middle of the desert while the temperature is still in the 70s and we’re hanging out by the pool.
My son has Santa coming to visit his school on Thursday, at which I am helping out, quite possibly against my better judgement (there’s only one person guaranteed to make a toddler cry harder than the school photographer, and that’s Santa). At the moment I feel like the Grinch because I just can’t get excited about someone’s Dad getting sweaty in a Santa suit pretending to have come from the North Pole. Let’s face it, if Santa came to Dubai one would assume that he would stick a pair of red shorts on with a (real)fur trim and swap the hat for a pair of designer shades before making various demands to ‘see Dubai’ including a trip to Wild Wadi and a look at the fountains. Topped off with Friday brunch at the Al Qasr in preparation for the 2 billion mince pies and 400,000 glasses of sherry he’s going have to work through in a few weeks.
Christmas in Dubai is a bit of a confusing time in general. Clearly it’s not a local festival but the shops, hotels and schools are full of it. Music, decorations, the works – sometimes you even see evidence of the actual meaning of Christmas rather than it just being ‘Santa Day’. Today I stumbled across a chocolate filled ‘Prayerful Christmas advent calendar’, which aside from being one of the most gross examples of religious/consumerist Christmas cross-breeding I’ve ever seen, filled me with surprise that it was even allowed. Because despite the odd card with a stable on the front, Christmas in Dubai is basically all about Santa. I wonder if it’s the same everywhere else? It’s hard to tell if it’s because Dubai is such a consumerist environment and because it’s a Muslim country or whether it’s the same everywhere. It’s not something I really paid attention to back in the UK, because I didn’t have kids and Christmas to me was a silly hat and spending a night up in town with my mates. But now I find I am a bit sad about the lack of ‘Christmas’ in Christmas, which is even stranger given I’m not a religious person. Maybe I’m getting old, but I kind of feel that if you’re going to celebrate Christmas, you should at least know the story.
One friend posted on FB last week that his son was playing Elton John in his school’s upcoming Christmas show. So maybe the traditional Nativity play is a thing of the past even if you are in the UK. It’s a shame because I would love to one day see my son dressed as a shepherd, or a King, or the Angel Gabriel (he would make a good Gabriel, I feel; Jesus, not so much, it’s a bit-part at best really) and I think it’s a wonderful way to tell a story that might not have meaning to most of the kids or parents but at least helps create some tradition around the whole thing, and particularly for young children, is the one part of Christmas that isn’t about Santa and presents. How can you find any deeper meaning in being Elton bloody John for crying out loud?
But despite what seems to be a widespread post-modern secularisation-gone-mad of Christmas, and another horrendous and rather stressful travel schedule, I am counting down the days until we fly to the UK, because for me that’s when it really starts. It’s cold, and dark, and wet, and everyone is sick and/or miserable, but around the time I arrive that will all magically transform into ‘feeling Christmassy’ and everyone will begin to embrace the idea of winter rather than fighting it. I will get to my mum’s to find a tree that’s twinklier than even Dubai can pull off on it’s best day, the disco ball in the conservatory will be on a slow rotate to make it ‘snow’ (OH YES THEY DO), and let’s not even talk about the motorized angel on the top of the tree that due to an unfortunate hand motion will forever be known as the wanking fairy. Each night I will stare out at the clear, crisp starry sky from the warmth of the house, and wake up to frosty winter fields, unspoilt and beautiful. I will stamp my feet on the station platform to warm them while I wait to travel up to town in my silly hat and celebrate with my friends. Then off to the US and to the snow, to watch my husband and son playing outside and give them hot chocolates to warm them up when they come in. To decorate our new USA Christmas tree that will sit by a fireplace instead of by the patio doors, and start new traditions as we wrap our presents in the warm instead of in air conditioning. To kiss and hug and laugh with friends and family on both sides of the pond. To see my son light up and fall in love with his grandparents all over again. To hold my niece for the first time. This is Christmas.