|photo via my Instagram|
I wasn't sure what to expect this year, having Christmas in Kuwait. I moved to the Middle East with little knowledge of how an Islamic nation was actually run and how conservative or liberal it would be in practice. To my surprise, one day at the grocery store almost all the Christmas accouterments were being offered for sale - from Christmas trees to Santa hats to Advent calendars. It turns out that although Christmas is a Christian holiday, it is celebrated by many (Christians and non-Christians alike) for one of its basic components: spending time with loved ones and giving oneself and gifts to those loved ones. This also makes it a rather profitable holiday worldwide. It got me thinking - what is the meaning of Christmas in Kuwait?
We started off by decorating our home, listening to carols, and drinking hot chocolate. There was a botched attempt at homemade eggnog and because we had a plastic tree this year, a pine tree smelling candle filled our apartment with Christmas cheer and tricked out noses into believing the tree was alive. The German Speaking Women of Kuwait had a festive party at the German Ambassador's residence complete with German holiday treats, coffee, Santa, and many in their favorite Christmas sweaters. There were holiday bazaars on the Cornishe and special events at the U.S. Embassy for homesick Americans.
Although we weren't without festive celebrations, something felt off for me. The holidays didn't seem to be the same so far from home. Yet people who were strangers to me just weeks ago reached out to Gman and I and brought us into their homes. The generosity of our new community to feed us, entertain us, and become our friends touched me more than the presents under the tree or ritual watching of Christmas Vacation. Christmas in Kuwait, it turns out, means what I already suspected: the generosity of new friends gathering around the holidays makes a foreign land feel more like home.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!
And in case you're interested, past Christmas stories: Zoo Lights at the National Zoo, dealing with grief over the holidays, my favorite things to do in NYC during the holidays