This Christmas I did something that I haven’t done in 5 years. I stayed home. This feels weird to say even as I am typing it. Is this home?
Jamaica in 2010; Cancún, Mexico in 2011; Washington, USA in 2012; Thailand in 2013; and now Al Ain in 2014.
I was home in 2012, right? Maybe I should change my classification of home for this. Maybe instead I should say, this is my first time in 5 years that I didn’t travel away from my current place of residence on Christmas, therefore; resulting in a need to buy Christmas stockings, wrap presents, and cook a Christmas dinner. That definition feels a little more accurate.
You might be wondering what Christmas is like in Al Ain. Considering the UAE is a Muslim country, there is more Christmas-y stuff going on than I would have thought there would be. The malls play Christmas carols and sell all the typical Christmas decor. Restaurants offer Christmas dinners. There are Christmas trees for sale. Churches offer Christmas services. The National Day lights are still decorating the streets and roundabouts, so it kind of looks like the city is decorated for Christmas (it helps that the UAE colors are red, green, and white). Of course, it isn’t like celebrating Christmas in the States. The temperature was a high of about 77F (25C). That never happens in Portland! In the States, Christmas time is met with crowded malls, last minute shopping, and the other typical hustle-bustle of the holidays. In Al Ain, it was met with a hustle for everyone to leave. Most of my friends left – either for their home or for an adventure elsewhere. Then there was quietness.
Of course the biggest difference is that I don’t have all of my family here. For me, Christmas is a time for family and traditions. Maybe that is my hesitation with saying that I celebrated Christmas at home this year. Is it really home if my mom, dad, brothers, sister, and cats aren’t with me? Does it count if I haven’t put up a tree and decorated it with all of the ornaments from my childhood? Is it really Christmas morning without my mom’s hot apple cider, without my dad playing Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas, without my older brother passing out gifts wearing a Christmas hat, or playing games with all my siblings? Maybe this is just part of growing up. Things can’t always remain the same. People make new traditions.
This year I spent Christmas Eve with Kassandra, Clark, and his three boys. We made a Christmas dinner together of ham, potatoes, stuffing, macaroni, and salad with apple pie, chocolate chip cookies, and hot chocolate for dessert. Not bad for my first attempt at making a Christmas dinner.
After dinner, as we cleaned up, the boys started asking “when can we open presents?” as they ran around the house. It felt reminiscent of the Christmas Eves spent at my grandmother’s house when all of us kids would do the same thing. Guess some things are the same in all families. After opening presents, we all played Cluedo (Clue). I refuse to give up on all of my family traditions! It could have been a Very Brady Bunch Christmas Special.
On Christmas morning, Kassandra and I opened our gifts from each other and lazily sat around doing nothing. This was a sharp contrast to our last few Christmases, and although it was nice, it still didn’t really feel like Christmas. I am not sure what I expected or how it could have been any different, but it just didn’t really feel like Christmas.
Everyone celebrates Christmas in a different way. We all have our own traditions and ways of doing things. I think for the past few years, I had been avoiding Christmas altogether by escaping on a vacation. Now I wonder what kind of traditions my daughter will even remember and how she will celebrate with her children. Will Christmas mean spending time with family, decorating trees, playing games, and complaining about the cold weather and crowds at the malls? Or will Christmas mean a vacation to somewhere warm, dinner in a nice hotel restaurant, and relaxing with cold drinks while watching people wearing Santa costumes on the beach? Maybe she will find a her own unique way to celebrate. It made me miss my mom even more. I can’t imagine not spending Christmas with my daughter. I know my mom feels the same way. Maybe next year, Kassandra, Clark, the boys, and I need to have our Brady Brunch Christmas Special at home… wherever that may be.