50 to try: festive fun in Dubai

Here are 50 ways to get into the Christmas spirit


This is an article from 2011. View festive and new year in Dubai 2012

1 Give, give, give
It can be anything, from buying a small meal for the security guard in your building, tipping Dhs50 to a parking attendant or giving sweet treats to the office boy to take home. They won’t cost you much but will mean the world to someone less fortunate.

2 Pick up an advent calendar
Nothing gets you in a festive mood more than counting down the days until Christmas. If you have little kids at home, make it a big deal. Set aside a certain time each day (before breakfast works best) when you see can what goodies are in store together.

3 Sample Dubai’s very best hot chocolate
Only accessible to the bold and the cold, The Avalanche Café is situated half-way up Dubai’s famed indoor ski slope – Ski Dubai (04 409 4000). If you get there, order a steaming hot chocolate topped with whipped cream, marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles.

4 Go ice-skating
The Olympic-sized Dubai Ice Rink at The Dubai Mall is always a favourite whether you’re young or old, but you can also head to the Abu Dhabi Ice Rink at Zayed Sport City (02 444 8458) for out-of-town gliding action.

5 Book a ski chalet…in Dubai
Stay in a ski chalet overlooking Ski Dubai at the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates (04 341 0000). The luxury ski chalets all overlook Ski Dubai, and they have that cosy alpine feel inside, albeit with modern extras such as large plasma screens, wireless internet, spacious marble bathrooms and Molton Brown toiletries.

6 Have an Xmas movie marathon
Watch the greatest Christmas movies of all time – and trust us, there’s a film for everyone, as long as you’re willing to rent or buy, and not hoping to find it on Showtime. If it’s monsters you’re after, you can’t far wrong with 1984’s Gremlins, while if you’re looking for a wholesome family flick, Miracle on 34th Street (1947) will do the trick.

7 Say it with Post-its
Write Post-it notes filled with random Christmassy thoughts, wishes or inspirational messages related to the holiday and giving around the house. Put them up in your office space or work mates’ cubicles if you think they need a pick me up.

8 Christmas tales on your iPad
Sure you still have to work, but make the most of your lunch break or free time by reading Christmas stories on your iPad – you can get Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer from the App Store and even How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

9 Buy sprouts
Do you really eat them at any other time of year? Honestly? Make the most of the humble sprout and stock up on the most divisive of seasonal side dishes. Despite once being voted England’s least favourite vegetable, they’re packed with health benefits and are even said to battle cancer.

10 Download an animated festive screensaver
A roaring fire, a Christmas tree with twinkling lights, Father Christmas shooting through the sky… the festive options are endless online these days. So if you’re staring out the window at yet another sunny day, change your scene inside the office. If none of these suggestions tickle your fancy, do a quick Google search and wade through a list of websites longer than Santa’s naughty list.

11 Greet people
We don’t know if it’s a UAE thing, but we genuinely miss being greeted in the morning, evening…or any time really. With Christmas round the corner, we’re going to start wishing everyone happy holidays and try to engage with people more, whether at the local hypermarket or just around the office.

12 Potluck party
It’s that time of year when everyone plans to head home to be with their close friends and family, so plan a potluck party with a Christmas theme the weekend before everyone goes away – the Party Centre in Garhoud (04 283 1353) always has a great selection when it comes to decorations. It’ll be like you’re all spending the holiday together… just earlier.

13 Make a scrapbook
If you’ve decided to not leave for Christmas and really start to miss your family and friends, try making a scrapbook filled with photos and other things that remind you of all the times you’ve spent together. It makes a great gift for mum back home too!

14 Start putting up the Christmas tree
It’s never to early start feeling festive. Decorating the tree is an essential part of the run up to Christmas. You can buy a fake one from all good hypermarkets, pick a colour theme for your decorations or hang up things your kids have made at school. And don’t forget the fairy lights – they always make your home look so pretty.

15 Have the scents of Christmas waft through your house
No, by that we don’t mean install a vat of reindeer manure. Fill up little bowls from your kitchen with a mixture of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and dot them around the house (they smell like mulled Christmas drinks). If you haven’t got room for a real Christmas tree, for the authentic smell buy a bottle of pine air freshener.

16 Make an Xmas mixed tape
Or, seeing as this isn’t the ’90s, you could make a Christmas playlist on your iPod. Here are a few of our recommendations, in no particular order: Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas (awful, but essential), The Pogues Fairytale of New York, East 17’s Stay Another Day (though you really need the music video for that Christmas vibe), Chris Rea’s Driving Home For Christmas, Wizard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day and, of course, the inescapable Do They Know It’s Christmas Time by Band Aid.

17 Watch old Top of the Pops clips on YouTube
So the BBC programme may be one that only the Brits remember (with the exception of international versions around the world), but the acts on this music show, which ran from 1964 to 2006, will be remembered by most nationalities. What is Christmas without a bit of nostalgia?

18 Talk it out
Find out what your friends and work mates have planned for the holidays, swap horror stories (we all have one or two) and wishes, and generally have everyone make a collective effort to get into the spirit.

19 Bring Northern Hemisphere Christmases to Dubai
Turn your air conditioning up so it’s really, really cold (sorry, polar bears) and put on hats, gloves and scarves and pretend to go for a walk. When you’ve ‘come back’, turn the air-conditioning off and make steaming cups of hot chocolate. Simples.

20 Make mince pies
Some people love them, some people hate them, but it’s not Christmas without mince pies. There are countless recipes on the internet for these classics (we reckon the secret to success is all about the pastry). Whip up a batch and invite friends round for a cheeky drink and Christmas snack.

21 Speak to your Nan
Let’s be honest, whether she’s in another country or not, it’s probably the only time you’ll speak to her this year. Too expensive? Get her on Skype. Or failing that, just get yourself on Skype and buy credit – calls are still laughably cheap to landlines from your computer or iPhone with the online phone service.

22 Prepare thank you card for said Nan thanking her for the socks

A bit of coloured card, scissors, glitter and some PVA glue and you’re away. Not particularly arty? There are a number of school craft fairs around town in the lead up to Christmas, so buy something made by someone else (or someone else’s child) for that authentic homemade feel.

23 Wear a bad jumper

Knitted. With a snowflake or 3D Santa on. H&M seems to have already rolled out both men’s and women’s snowflake knitted options, though if these are too ‘fashionable’ (arf!) for you, we recommend jumping on Ebay for the naffest of the naff.

24 Complain about decorations going up too early

Because, let’s face it, they always do. Alternatively, embrace it. Wander round all the malls and take in the displays, and get inspired about what you’re going to do at home, without buying your decs too early and realising they’re hideous in comparison.

25 Call friends round for carolling

If you love a good old sing song then there’s no time better than Christmas. You can download the words for all the old favourite carols online – get some friends or family round and get practicing. Double up with the mince pie idea above and you’ll be overloaded with that festive feeling.
26 Go Christmas shopping early

Although Dubai’s malls don’t ever get super, super busy before Christmas, there’s no time like the present to start shopping for Christmas. If you see something good for a family member or friend, bag it. There’s nothing worse than trying to remember where you saw something a month ago, or for it to have already gone.

27 Watch The Nutcracker
Catch Tchaikovsky’s world famous classical ballet Dec 15-17 at the Madinat Theatre when the highly acclaimed Vienna Festival Ballet Company returns to town and tells the tale of Clara, whose nutcracker toy magically transforms into a soldier that whisks her away to an enchanted land. Tickets cost Dhs165 (balcony) and Dhs185 (stalls) and are available through Time Out Tickets.

28 Make your own Christmas cards
Satisfy that arts and crafts itch and start making your own cards. Cut up old cards, use bits from magazines or just get drawing, there’s nothing like receiving a hand made card especially if you’re miles away from home. Just remember to make a note of the last posting day before Christmas.

29 Dance
Okay, so it’s not strictly limited to Christmas but everyone feels better after a bit of a boogie. Clear the living room floor, stick on some bad Christmas music and let go. Kids especially will love the excitement in the air.

30 Host a nativity play
Round up the whole neighborhood and bring out the drama queen (or king) in them to take part in a nativity play. Get yourself a director’s chair and call the shots. Leave your friends wondering as to why you suddenly have no time for them. They’ll be in for a surprise when they receive a ‘red carpet’ invite to watch your play. If you’re looking for some real drama, dare to cast an actual ox and donkey.

31 Try out a new recipe
In preparation for the big day get practicing with new recipes and try them out on family and friends. Try to include any children in the cooking, so that they feel part of the preparations and of course they get to help eat the results!

32 Bake themed cookies
Christmas is a time of indulgence, so get stuck into some baking in the kitchen. Nothing smells better than home-baked cakes and cookies. We love anything with cinnamon and sweet spices to fill the house with a feeling of Christmas, but if it doesn’t go well, pick up some from Lime Tree Café (04 349 8498).

33 Visit the Toy Christmas Village at Ace Hardware
Who said it’s too early to start decorating for Christmas? Head on over to Ace Hardware ASAP and give your festive spirit a boost by going all out on the Christmas decorations. Ace Hardware on Sheikh Zayed Road promises a wide range of Christmas goodies at great prices. Maybe a standing Santa at your doorstep to help spread the good cheer?

34 Build a sandman
There is little chance that the heavens will open and cover Dubai with a blanket of snow over the festive period, so your chances of building a snowman sit at about nil. Instead, why not hit the beach and make a sandman instead? Decorate him with sunglasses, beach hats or even a bikini. You could even try getting out into the desert to build your sandman, but good luck getting that thin desert sand to stick...

35 Buy frankincense and myrrh in the spice souk
Pick up incense right out of the Bible this year. Walk into the spice souk and purchase these two alluring fragrances used back in the day as a gift for none other than Jesus Christ himself! Traditional gold would also do the job, but buying all your friends and family a shiny new piece of jewellery could get expensive.

36 Forget snail mail
Yes, receiving Christmas cards in the post brings a completely different excitement altogether. But moving ahead with being different this season, why not put on an Oscar winning performance in the form of a video message and send it over to your loved ones. If that’s not your thing, turn into a wacky little elf through www.elfyourself.com and send your wishes.

37 Practise your present wrapping
Give your gifts the personal touch – and go crazy. Surprise your family and friends with more than just the present you’re giving them. Don’t just stick to funky wrapping paper; go all out with the big bows, Christmas themed stickers and glitterati. Maybe even a little rhyme on the wrapping paper hinting at the contents – at least that’s how the Swedish do it!

38 ... or try Christmas rapping! Turn your Santa hat backwards and drop a festive rhyme
Imagine the look on the person’s face when the ‘lyrical gangsta’ (aka yourself) is at their doorstep free-styling a never-heard-before version of Jingle Bells. You can bet you’ll be the one carol singer nobody will ever forget (even if they want too). Although we do suggest you practice more than in front of the mirror or the shower – and choose your audience wisely.

39 Instigate ‘Wear a woolly jumper to work day’
Pick a day at random, perhaps December 14, and insist that everybody in your office wears a big wooly sweater to work. The cornier and chunkier the better. Award extra points for bobbles, reindeers and his-and-hers combinations. Turn the A/C right up, serve cocoa and pretend you’re living somewhere cold.

40 Volunteer for a good cause
Step out of your way to give back to the community this festive season. Sign up on www.volunteerindubai.com and pick an event that suits you best. You’ll be making Christmas a tad bit more special for someone and all the while enjoy the spirit of giving. After all, that’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it?

41 Post a photo of yourself on the beach
Remember when it was 45 degrees out and your obnoxious friends in other countries were bragging about their garden parties and country walks? Now if your time for revenge. The weather throughout the festive period is ideal for lazy afternoon strolls, barbecues and beach parties. Keep your camera close always…and remember to upload them on Facebook.

42 Watch The Snowman in your dressing gown

As beautiful as the Aurora Borealis and as pure as a field of virgin snow, this animated film became an instant classic when first broadcast in 1982. Forget about 3D animation, wisecracking characters or a complex story line and immerse yourself in the raw emotion of Raymond Briggs’s enduring creation.

43 Have a snowball fight at Ski Dubai

Access to Ski Dubai does not mean having to strap on a snowboard and hurtle down a black run. Children, cowards and cold-lovers have known for some time that checking in for snowball fights, sledging and snow-sculpting is a perfect way to get your chill on.

44 Attend a quiz night with the three ‘wisest men’ you know.

Got a night with no plans whatsoever? Call on your three best buddies and lead the team to participate in any random quiz contest you can get yourselves into. Answer before the question is read out completely; give out the wrong answers just to annoy your ‘three wise men’ and make a hoot and fuss when you lose (you know you will).

45 Head to Wafi

You know the festive season is well and truly here come December at Wafi (04 324 4555). Not only does the mall go all out with decorations and a grotto, but we love the light and sound show that impresses both big and little kids.

46 Make a new candle from ‘leftovers’

Save all your leftover candles and tea light. Throw them all in a washed tin in a saucepan of boiling water and let it all melt. Pour it carefully into pretty glasses or jars. Get some string, dip this in the wax and leave to dry straight. Snip the string to length. If you’d like to scent the wax, use dried flowers or essential oils.

47 Invent a Christmas cocktail

It really doesn’t matter if this is alcoholic or not – the key to a Christmas cocktail is the colour scheme. Anything red, green and bubbly is perfect and we recommend frosting the glass for extra festive points. Names such as ‘Santa Sleighers’ and ‘Stocking Fillers’ help enhance the party mood.

48 Give a Santa hat to a stranger

Nothing says Christmas clubbing like the sight of a dancefloor of Santa hat-wearing party people bouncing together. But merry dancers are notorious for plucking a hat off a stranger’s head and keeping it for themselves. Preempt the theft by buying a spare and taking it with you for charitable fun.

49 Souk Santa

A simple way to spread seasonal cheer in the workplace is with gift giving. Try a twist on the usual routine by placing a strict Dhs25 price limit and insisting that all items are bought from a Dubai souk. You’ll find ironic ornaments, touristy T-shirts and some arty knickknacks aplenty.

50 Serve eggnog in your office pantry

Share a Christmas tradition with colleagues by serving (non-alcoholic) eggnog in your office pantry. Made by mixing milk, eggs, sugar and nutmeg, the drink is as Christmassy as mince pies and carols. Although best served warm with a snowstorm outside we think a chilled version in the desert works.

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