It would appear then, that Christmas is here. It arrived in our house on December 1st, without delay, at around 6am when my son jumped on us and inquired as to where his advent calendar was and when we were putting the tree up. And do you know what? I LOVE that it gets to be 25 days long! This is the first year my son has been old enough to really appreciate what it’s all about – well, not what it’s all about – we still have some work to do on the actual story of Christmas, I’m guessing like many expat parents living in a country that doesn’t officially celebrate this particular religious holiday, we have to work slightly harder at that bit…. However, it’s brought a completely different kind of Christmas our way to our rather more debauched pre-child years, or to the last three, which have been frankly exhausting. It’s made me think really hard about the whole thing, in order to find things to do to keep the excitement building and create traditions for us as a family that will go down the years. I admit, it can be pretty difficult to evoke the spirit of Christmas when it’s 70 degrees in the shade, but as long as we ignore the fact that our friends and relatives are wading through snow and hanging stockings up by actual working chimneys, then the illusion can be maintained until we get on a plane. And honestly, it’s kind of nice to go to a carol concert and only worry about getting mosquito bites rather than pneumonia. So, top ten things so far that have made Advent magical:
1. Singing ‘Away in a Manger’ to the boy at bedtime tonight and watching him listen, eyes wide, completely spellbound.
2. Putting the tree up and having actual help decorating it with a pre-schooler who can fetch the decorations for me to hang and shoo away the cats, rather than last year’s version – three feral animals (one toddler, two cats) trying their level best to destroy it all from three feet down.
3. Listening to my son rehearse ‘Frosty the Snowman’ for his school show. I should imagine when it comes to it he won’t make a peep but the other 47,000 times I have heard him sing it will make up for that.
4. Knowing my son is old enough to understand that ‘Father Christmas is watching’ and preparing to enjoy 24 days of making that count for something.
5. Watching my son’s anticipation and excitement build about a) seeing the Santa show on Saturday; b) going to Ski Dubai with his best friend to play in the snow c) seeing ALL his Nannas in a few weeks’ time.
6. Going completely over the top with Christmas shopping, in particular for the boy, whom I have unapologetically spoiled rotten. What the hell, there’s only one of him and he’s not going to be three at Christmas ever again. I want magic and I’m willing to let my husband pay for it.
7. The advent calendar I got from Amazon that has no chocolate in it. The doors may be welded shut in a sub-standard made in China kind of way but at least I don’t have to cope with the sugar rush from a Malteser every morning before school. Stroke of genius on my part if you ask me.
8. Getting all teary eyed at my favourite Christmas song ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ etc. Gets me every year and I love it that it does that. If you see a bleach blonde nutcase bawling her eyes out in Mall of the Emirates this week for no apparent reason – that’s me.
9. Skyping my mum in the UK today to see the snow – and my stepdad throwing snowballs at the window that looked to us like they were coming straight out of the screen. So exciting to my son, although I’m not sure he will ever forgive any of us if we don’t produce snow on Christmas day like they have in Charlie and Lola.
10. The fact that November was our busy month for going out, and December is more about family stuff, so I will be sober for most of it – meaning that hopefully by the time we arrive in the UK I will be ready for a several glasses of fizz and a party, rather than assuming my customary burnt-out knackered state, begging for sleep and nursing a whiff of sherry whilst rocking gently in the corner of the room.
And best of all – we still have another 20 days to go of making memories. This has always been my favourite time of year in Dubai because the weather is so fantastic and the city is just buzzing with things to do and see and enjoy – but experiencing Advent as a family in such a different environment brings it’s own pleasures too and so far I’m having so much fun I hardly want it to stop. But we are lucky enough to get the best of both worlds – because in fifteen days we get to fly home and do it all again. Awesome.