All your Christmas questions answered – a gift from us to you
1 Where can I buy a Christmas tree? For real fir trees, check out Spinneys, head to Satwa’s Plant Street, or order one online from www.xmas3zin.ae. Most supermarkets or hardware stores such as Ikea (04 203 7555) and Ace Hardware (800 275 223) have artificial trees in different sizes. To splurge on a more expensive artificial tree, try Falcon Gallery (04 338 5733).
2 Should I give up sending paper cards this year? Yes! Why waste paper and money when there are lots of fun options online? Elf Yourself (www.elfyourself.com) is a festive favourite and there are hordes of websites that offer e-cards (just tap ‘e-cards’ into Google). If you must buy cards, opt for those that support a charity, such as Al Noor (04 340 4844).
3 If I do choose to send cards and gifts, what are the last dates for posting? Christmas and New Year are some of the busiest times of year for post offices. The further away you’re sending things, the sooner they need to be in the mail. If you’re posting them to someone in the UAE itself, two days is fine, but if you’re sending them to places as far away as New Zealand, you need to get them in the mail at least 15 days in advance. NYE card, then?
4 Where can I go to meet Mr and Mrs Claus? There are loads of places to meet Santa this year. One of our favourites is at Wafi, which is offering a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-inspired grotto extravaganza. Dubai Festival City and Ski Dubai also have a Santa and grotto, while at Dubai Polo and Equestrian club you’ll find Santa on the terrace as well as pony rides, and the Souk Madinat Jumeirah is hosting Santa on his sleigh. All are in residence until December 24, with Festival City’s big man staying until the 26th and the Polo Club’s Father Christmas sticking around until December 27. There’s also a life-size gingerbread house at Mercato (it’s two metres tall!) and an elf workshop.
5 Which stores sell the best Christmas food? Most supermarkets stock raw ingredients or ready-to-go Christmas fare. Spinneys, Waitrose and Park ’n’ Shop are your best bets, and the Organic Foods and Café (04 434 0577) is also popular.
6 How can I reduce my Christmas shopping bill? For groups of friends and co-workers, Secret Santas are always a good idea: each person in the group picks a name out of a hat and buys a present for that person, rather than having to fork out on gifts for everyone. But you should always set a spending limit so the ridiculously generous guy doesn’t make you all look tight. In terms of food, a barbecue for Christmas dinner is a good idea – you can share out the cheaper ingredients and the cost. For a host of other wallet-friendly ideas, take tips from thrifty webmaster Martin Lewis (www.moneysavingexpert.com/christmas).
7 Can I order everything I need online? Pretty much. To get a Christmas roast delivered to your door in time for lunch or dinner, visit www.roomservice-uae.com and choose from the range of festive options, delivered free from various hotels. There’s no shortage of websites from which to order Christmas presents – from the Body Shop to Apple computers, most stores have a website for online shopping. And Interflora and Amazon are always good for folks back home if you don’t want to pay hefty international delivery prices.
8 How far in advance should I order the turkey? When you place an order at your local supermarket for turkey and other festive items, be warned – most places ask for at least a week’s notice. If you’re looking to avoid the cooking but still want a traditional meal at home, many hotels will take orders for delivery on Christmas Day. Our top pick? The Address Montgomerie (04 390 5600).
9 Which are the best vouchers to buy as gifts? You can buy gift vouchers from most malls in Dubai, or specific shops. Other alternatives include Sega Republic (04 448 8484) and other games arcades, where you can load money directly onto swipe cards.
10 We haven’t booked an office Christmas party! Bateaux Dubai (04 399 4994) offers reasonable packages, good service and a venue where staff have to stick around and interact. Parties at Dubai Autodrome (04 367 8700) encourage sly team-building.
11 What about transport during the festive period? Taxis shouldn’t be too hard to find over Christmas, but it would still be wise to call ahead and book, especially if it’s a late night and you’re off to a party in one of the newer developments in Dubai. For bookings, call Dubai Taxi on 04 208 0808. As for trains and buses, the metro ran until 12.30am instead of 11.30pm last Eid, so the same may happen again. Keep an eye on www.rta.ae or call the RTA’s 24-hour helpline on 800 9090.
12 Help! I’ve got to dress up as Santa. What do I do? Mr Ben’s Costume Closet (04 345 3577) and The Balloon Lady (04 344 1062) stock Santa suits for men, women and children that are available to hire. Spinneys, Choithram and other supermarkets usually have Santa suits on sale as well, although you may need to hunt for your size.
13 I don’t want to seem culturally ignorant. What other events should I know about? Muslims celebrate Al Hijra, the Islamic New Year, on December 18, while Shi’a and Sunni Muslims mark Ashura on December 27. Sadeh is a celebration marked mainly by Zoroastrians in Iran on December 11.
14 How can I avoid Christmas completely? Avoid festive gatherings and eat take-out on the day. Alternatively, book a tropical holiday – try Bali, the Maldives or Australia – and stay away from the public. Don’t exchange presents (although don’t expect to get any, either). And check out the new animated version of A Christmas Carol, directed by Robert Zemeckis and featuring the voice of Jim Carrey. Bah humbug, indeed.