It’s the most nostalgic time of the year.
Where I’m from, Christmas doesn’t taste like mulled wine or smell like snow. Christmas markets aren’t really a thing and you’ll only find sparkly lights on display in public at malls with 24/7 security surveillance. You won’t ever see kids leaving letters for Santa by the chimney because…well, no one has a chimney. You’ll also never build a snowman, because it never snows. Santa hats are often replaced with those paper crowns you get in Christmas crackers, which is a more sensible accessory when temperatures are around 35’C. Speaking of hot weather, we like to celebrate Christmas in someone’s backyard – especially when that someone has a pool. Moms and daughters like to keep busy (and by busy I mean ‘skinner‘) in the kitchen while dads get tipsy on ‘brannas‘ with their sons. Kids usually go to bed early due to sunstroke, an injury, pure exhaustion or all of the above – and that’s when a 5litre ice cream bucket with a bottle of Amarula makes its round. Somewhere in between there’s a braai or a roast, at least 10 side dishes from everyone’s grandmother’s recipe book, an argument about who makes the best malva pudding, a vast selection of everyone’s drink of choice, one or two uninvited guests, a bunch of invited guests whose names you can’t remember, lots of handshakes followed by a kiss on the lips (it’s a thing) and lots of inside (mostly inappropriate) jokes. South Africans just know how to have a Holly Jolly Christmas!
These memories haunt me every time I’m unable to spend Christmas at home. I do count myself lucky, though, for I’ve found my tribe here in Qatar who I consider as part of my family. I realized that no matter where you find yourself, Christmas can always be wonderful as long as there’s love.
For those who are also far from their families this holiday season, I’ll end with the opening line of one of my favorite Christmas movies, Love Actually:
‘Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there—fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge—they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.’
I hope you all experienced love in some form this Christmas. Happy holidays, everyone!