My first Christmas as an expat. My first Christmas away from home.
No trees. No lights. No nauseating commercialized versions of Christmas carols driving us all mad from Halloween to Christmas Day…
No aisles filled with presents and red poinsettias and candy canes and chocolate.
No winter dispays filled with fake snow and some jolly Santa taking pictures with all the kiddos.
But the worst part: No family. No turkey dinner on Christmas Day with all my extended family.
It’s a bit heartbreaking really.
But, thankfully I have an absolutely wonderful family who express mailed a package to me to ensure I’d get it by Christmas Day! And what a box it was!!!
It arrived the Monday before Christmas while I was at work. Filled with so much excitement, I couldn’t wait until Christmas Day to open it! Plus… Christmas morning I’d have to go to work, and who wants to open a giant box full of Christmas goodies on their own without anyone around to share in the excitement and glee??!!
So I opened it at work…
It was filled with the sweetest and most thoughtful cards from my family… some of my favorite goodies… droopies (Dutch candy)… just the ones I like… Starbucks Christmas blend and Peppermint white mocha(In VIA form) because there’s no Christmas drinks here at Starbucks and I had literally just been telling my mom how disappointed I was to find out that they didn’t have any of that here.
There were freshly baked gingersnaps that were almost warm still they were so fresh… baked specially by my dear sister. Toffees and all sorts of other deliciousness! Plus my favorite leather jacket and a couple sweaters because Saudi is so much colder at this time of year than I thought it would be!!
The next couple weeks were wonderful as I could get up in the morning and sip an awesome Christmas coffee on my way in to work… from my coffee mug covered in pictures of the best coworkers from my home team…
I had a couple of Christmas parties over the weeks before Christmas… nothing particularly traditional… but they were all in the spirit of Christmas. And as we’re all so far away from our family and friends at this time of year… we expats really stick together and appreciate the opportunity to celebrate together!
One night a couple weeks before Chrismas… there was a great party at a restaurant at a compound where we sang along to Christmas music!!! There was even a tree… and it was just a gorgeous night filled with laughter and friendship and happiness… serious Christmas cheer!!
That was Christmas party number one.
Number 2 went a little something like this… large amounts of red “tea” combined with a long table with two teams on either side with red solo cups… which resulted in intense games of flip cup… and it was all great fun!!!
The last super non-traditional Christmas party was supposed to be a relatively traditional Christmas dinner… but it turned into a sloppy muddy poolside mess… and it was ever so much fun! We had a chef who made an amazing Christmas dinner… and somehow, after dinner… people started getting thrown into the pool. The terrace got soaked with water which mean the flower-less flower beds turned into mud…. and someone thought it was a brilliant idea for us to all get down and dance in the mud… and we did. And it was one of the best nights ever! It really is all about the people you get to hang out and how you decide to deal with the situation and what you make of it…
We all had to work… but it was the weekend… and the clinic was happy and upbeat and everyone was in a great mood despite being away from home and family…
Some of the nurses handed out gift bags and little presents… and we all just really enjoyed the day with each other!! (We might have had bubbles in one of our gift bags… and now I feel like a kid again!!!)
In the evening I went with a few friends to a compound where our friend had spent the whole day cooking a full on beautiful Christmas dinner. She had a little tree… a gingerbread house and candy canes…
I learned what Christmas crackers are… so fun!!! Why did we not grow up with these in North America?!! Or maybe my family was just the odd one out?
Natalie is seriously an amazing hostess. The setting was beautiful!! And the food was amazing!! Turkey and veggies and salad and potatoes and gravy… and even Christmas pudding for desert!!
We had a Secret Santa gift exchange also which was really really lovely…
And honestly… at the end of the day… even though I couldn’t be with my family back home… I got to spend the day with my Saudi family… and they’re beautiful people!! I seriously cherish the friendships I’ve made here and I know that these people are going to hold a special place in my heart forever!!
There’s something about Saudi and being away from family and friends at home that makes you really cling to the people you meet here and build really intense and wonderful relationships with them… because they’re all you have now! And really… it’s not a bad thing at all!!
And there’s something about spending Christmas in a country where Christmas isn’t celebrated at all and there’s absolutely no commercialization of Christmas… that makes you realize that Christmas really isn’t at all about the presents and trees and lights… but it is completely about the people you choose to fill your day with and the memories you create with them! Whether they’re family or friends.
So Merry Christmas 2014!!! To a day filled with cheer and happiness… even in Saudi!