South African in Qatar: Nostalgic memories and love for Christmas

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!

love,

Nadia x

17 thoughts on “South African in Qatar: Nostalgic memories and love for Christmas

  1. I have always been fascinated by a Christmas different to what you see in the traditional Christmas movies, a hot climate in December was always hard to imagine until I finally experienced it for myself in Australia. Being able to sunbathe in the festive season is always something I have envied, and your traditional Christmas sounds so alive (it reminds me of the family home in Home Alone when they are actually at home xD but without the kissing on the lips!) and this sense of togetherness is what Christmas is all about.

    I am so happy that you have found some family away from home to make these occasions special, and I am sure that with you all being in the same situation together, it helps form those close bonds.

    I am pleased you have had a great Christmas Nadia, and I hope the New Year is just as fun for you!

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    1. Yeah, same as you I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of the opposite, which to me was a white Christmas. Glad you got to experience a summery Christmas in Australia, how did you like it?
      I love what you said about the sense of togetherness, in the end that’s all you need and I feel really lucky to have that as an expat living in Qatar.
      I hope you’re having a fab time in your hometown and that you’ll have a great start to what will hopefully be a much better year!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It felt surreal being in the heat, but I liked it! A great experience.

        Back to London tomorrow, and ready for the New Year. I hope you have a great year also, with plenty of adventures!!

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  2. Really enjoyed knowing how Christmas is celebrated elsewhere… For someone who celebrates Christmas as a way to spend time with friends it’s been really tough this year… How do you celebrate Christmas in Qatar with your crew? P.S. Love Actually was an awful movie 😋

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    1. Yeah I’m very thankful that the situation here allowed us to get together for Christmas! We all brought a home cooked meal/dessert and a secret santa gift and enjoyed merry mingles deep into the night. How did you celebrate Christmas this year? Come on, Love Actually is a classic, gotta give it that! 😂

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      1. We were in lockdown but i was lucky to be living with family so I didn’t have to miss anyone. We had good food and I baked a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Very relaxing snowy Christmas day. Went for a walk to see Christmas lights. I can’t ever forgive what happened to poor Emma 😣

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  3. A powerful post if I do say so myself! Thank you Nadia. It was lovely to get an intimate insight into Christmas and the festive season in your culture. I didn’t know you were South African! What do you enjoy most about your country?

    I’m mixed heritage, half pakistani and half maltese, so I couldn’t personally compare my experience of one culture’s celebration to another. My mum’s maltese side of the family are christian though. We don’t tend to go too overboard but in recent years it’s become a tradition to visit my aunty’s mum. She has the loveliest cottage house, the most lively dogs and is honestly the best host. We have the most incredible food spreads to enjoy and always feel as if we’re truly part of the family. Love is everywhere and it extends so far. My aunty’s mum, Jo, knows that I’m passionate about interior design and gives me bags full of home decorating and lifestyle magazines to pore over.

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    1. Hello again, and a very happy new year to you, Maryam! Sorry I’m taking forever to respond – in typical 2020 fashion I had a crazy end to the year last week. I had to move again, as I’ve recently started a new job and had to leave my previous company’s accommodation. Now I’m in a lovely studio – finally a little space I have all to myself so I’m very happy, however there was a water issue in my apartment so just as I finished unpacking, I had to move AGAIN! The new (and hopefully final) apartment is on the 7th floor, which is better than the first one which was on the 3rd… so in between the New Year’s celebrations I’ve been settling into my little 7th heaven 🙂

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading about a South African style Christmas. It’s a lovely country – very similar to Australia I believe! A cultural melting pot with amazing weather and all kinds of nature scenes. What I enjoy most would definitely be the food lol – I’m a sucker for farm style home cooked meals, which is what I grew up with. Unlike all the women in my family, I’m not much of a cook, so I make sure my mom has all my favorite dishes ready whenever I go to visit!

      Your heritage sounds interesting and your way of spending Christmas sounds homely and warm! Curious about those food spreads – any traditional foods? I’ve always wanted to go to Malta – such a hidden gem. Have you ever lived there?

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