An Expat Christmas

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With everyone using iPod Touch, Blackberries and other mobile devices in addition to instant delivery, online shopping, Skype and webcams, it is easy to succumb to the belief that the world is one great global village that is accessible to everyone. However, this delusion is lost for those celebrating Christmas in a small town overseas in the Middle East.

Being an expatriate in the Middle East for Christmas means you will be receiving email after email from your friends and family back home, constantly complaining about all of the Christmas carols that keep playing and the Salvation Army bells ringing on every corner. All the while, you are wishing you could hear just a single bell ring just one time. An expat Christmas is spent mainly exchanging stories with all the other expats who were unable to make it home for the holidays.

As an expat, many people will surround you who do not know on which day to celebrate Christmas, and many others who are curious as to how to celebrate the season at all. You will hear phrases like “Blessed Eid” or “De Christmas akhtar de bakhtawar au newai kal de Mubarak sha”. Eventually, you will begin to feel like you are the only Canadian in the town. You may be compelled to hunt down other Canadians, or even Americans, just to hear someone else say simply, “Merry Christmas.”

For an expatriate in the Middle East, Christmas is a time to get creative. On the Christmas tree, many expats hang fake holly branches, jasmine tree branches and palm fronds. Many people string lights on the hibiscus bushes or add glitter to the pomegranates for a festive centrepiece.

The little grocery store set up for expats makes a valiant effort by supplying stolen for the German expats, alcohol-free plum pudding for the British expats, brie for the expats from France and a special shipment of Old El Paso Cheese ‘n’ Salsa, even though there are no tortilla chips to be found anywhere around the town.

Many expats begin making pleas in October to family members and friends back home to please send them a few candy canes, some wrapping paper, a little pine-scented potpourri and maybe even a few decorations to make the season jolly.