Christmas: How to get in the mood when your host country does not celebrate...

Published 2019-12-18 07:57

Some countries in the world do not celebrate Christmas such as those in the Middle East. Such countries are Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates and the rest of the Gulf States. Other non-Arab countries that do not celebrate Christmas are: Mongolia, China and Brunei. However, these countries are also most frequented by expats from all over the world. While some countries are stricter than others, a number of these are also receptive of Christmas celebrations.

How does one spend Christmas in a non-Christian country? It can be celebrated discreetly within closed doors or at the privacy of one’s home. This way it will not be offensive to non-Christians and you will not get in trouble with the law. For some open countries like the United Arab Emirates, they even have Christmas celebrations like tree lighting activities, Christmas villages in malls, Christmas fairs and they also decorate public places. Hotels offer Christmas festive brunches and cookie decorating contests and a lot more. Over the years, popular expat destinations like Abu Dhabi and Dubai have joined in the commercialism of the holidays. Churches can celebrate mass as well and you will not get in trouble joining them. Malls are decorated with Christmas cheer everywhere and children can enjoy festivities where they can meet Santa, decorate gingerbread houses and go around a Christmas village. It does not feel restrictive anymore compared to how it was years back.

While the UAE is lenient when it comes to Christmas, you have to check with your host country how tolerant they are. If they are stricter like in Saudi Arabia, best to celebrate within your home without the fanfare of the holidays. Get together with friends, have a nice meal together and practice traditions that you usually enjoy during the holidays. Exchange gifts, bring a nostalgic Christmas dish or bake some holiday cookies to give away. You can even listen to Christmas songs and decorate your tree if you wish! Watch Christmas movies for the added nostalgia and make hot chocolate with marshmallows and peppermint syrup. 

Whatever you do, just do not celebrate in public to avoid getting in trouble.  There are plenty of ways to celebrate in the comfort of your own homes; you just have to be creative enough to enjoy the holidays discreetly while respecting those whose religion is different from your own.