| Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Family Christmas in Dubai

Louise Emma Clarke prepares her first family Christmas in Dubai

© ITP Images

This is my favourite month of the year – and for me, warm weather has never come into it. I used to pity people jetting off to spend the festive season on an exotic beach. Clearly they hadn’t experienced the fun of a real family Christmas, with shivers, excitement, and novelty jumpers. And yet here I am preparing to spend my first in the desert…

My husband and I are admittedly a little Christmas obsessed. We got married in December knee-deep in the snow, chose to spend our honeymoon in one of the coldest cities in the world, and have a catalogue of festive movies that we roll out like excited kids when we flip the calendar over to December. In fact, we love the movie Elf so much that when I was pregnant with my son, a friend joked that we should call him
Buddy. I laughed it off, before hastily scribbling it down in my notebook when he was out of sight. Little did he know that it became a serious contender.

While we’ve always flown back to our home country for the big day itself, we’ve tried our best to get into the festive spirit in Dubai in the lead-up. One year, for example, we had the genius idea to crank up the air conditioning in our apartment to its highest setting, light a festive candle, and pull a duvet over ourselves as we sipped mugs of hot chocolate with marshmallows. We are that committed to the cause.

In the past, however, we’ve always had that flight to look forward to, along with the task of packing a suitcase with wrapped gifts, pre-written cards, and thermal tights. So now I have a pregnant belly too big to fly home, what happens this year? What exactly do families do in Dubai over the festive season?

In desperation, I asked a friend that very question. She laughed, before replying: “That’s the point Louise, we don’t have to do anything!” From getting a steaming hot turkey delivered on Christmas Day, to pre-ordering the cake with extra sultanas, to taking the presents to a gift-wrapping service. I could see the appeal on one level, but surely she was missing out on all the fun? And what did the kids get out of watching someone else do all the hard graft? I straightened my novelty snowman hat and dismissed such silliness in an instant.

My first mission was decorating the apartment – and after finding inspiration online, I decided to make my own bunting. It would be easy! I purchased eight rolls of festive wrapping paper, a roll of string, tube of glue, and pair of scissors with wavy blades, and got down to work – and after gluing a cartoon Santa Claus (decapitated) to the dining room table, I threw everything into a pile in frustration, where it has remained ever since.

I moved onto shopping (a more practiced skill than craft, admittedly) and started working on the contents of my son’s stocking. At 20 months, this will be the first year he’ll be aware of the festivities – and the big day will start with the moment he reaches into a knitted sock to discover a plethora of wrapped gifts.

It takes me back to my own childhood, when my sister and I delved excitedly into our own stockings on Christmas morning. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I found out that none of my friends had experienced the cruel twist of finding wrapped pieces of coal amongst their gifts and satsumas. “The naughtier you are, the more you will find!” my mother shrilly warned as she watched me pull out my fifth carbon nugget… It’s remarkable that I escaped with any fondness for that particular tradition.

I want to be prepared early this year, so in the last few weeks I’ve attempted a batch of mince pies (the baking tray was left with more filling than the pies), considered handcrafting a wreath for the door (I can’t find anywhere to buy sprigs of holly and let’s face it, I’d probably come away with an injury), and eyed up a novelty reindeer jumper for my son (until I had a nightmare about spending the season nursing a toddler with heat stroke).

You know, I’m starting to wonder if my friend is onto something. And as I have a little time to myself this morning, I may start researching brunches that will roll everything into one big festive package (for a few week’s salary, service not included). But it’s only research, you understand… I’m not ready to admit defeat just yet.

By Louise Emma Clarke
Time Out Dubai,

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