Today we’re going all the way to Qatar! Do you even know where that is?! Have you ever wondered what Christmas is like in a Muslim country? Well, today’s your lucky day! We have Lindsay here to tell us all about it. Take it away, Lindsay!
How is Christmas celebrated where you live? Currently, I have been living in Doha, Qatar for the past 3.5 years. Being a Muslim country, Christmas is celebrated only by the western expats here, though that is a great number. In fact, my husband has to work Christmas day like any other day, though many Muslims are very understanding if you choose to take work off as a Christian.
As the expat community continues to grow, there are more opportunities to celebrate Christmas, but there is a great expense to any imported goods. Some people pay $200+ to have live Christmas trees flown in from Northern Europe. Artificial trees are available, though not widely, my favorite being the brightly colored (think magenta, and yellow) from the Indian-owned grocery chain. Peppermint is nearly impossible to find, and other traditional candies, if they are found, are very expensive.
Christmas is something we have to plan and make time for. It is nice to not be bombarded by the commercialism of Christmas everywhere you go because we are able to more easily focus on the real meaning of Christmas and spend time with our family rather than rushing about to a lot of planned events. It would be nice to be able to hear more Christmas music, so we make sure it is playing in our home almost constantly.
As a ward (church group), we have a traditional Christmas party each year at the Singing Sand Dunes. They are sand dunes that when the humidity and temperature is right, hum when you walk on them and the sand shifts. Everyone arrives early to ride down on pieces of cardboard, large trays or just scoot down on their hind ends. As the sun sets, we build a bonfire, roast hot dogs & marshmallows and then literally sing carols. This year, there will be an new addition (Santa Khalid). My husband has missed there being a Santa present for the children, so he came up with the idea of a Santa Claus for this region. He has grown out his beard and had a tailor make a thobe (traditional Arab men’s dress) in red & white. He will wear a gutra with a holly agal. We only wish we had a Hummer so he could come driving over the dune for his arrival.
Decorating-Growing up, we always set up our tree within a few days of Christmas. When I lived in Berlin, Germany, I learned their trees are set up on Christmas Eve and kept up for the 12 days of Christmas until January 6th when the wisemen “arrive.” I decided to follow this same tradition. There is so much happening normally around Christmas that we can focus on other decorations and then set up the tree as a family on Christmas Eve.
What do you eat for your Christmas Eve dinner? We usually have cheese fondue for Christmas Eve dinner because it was easy and my mom knew we all loved it. I have taken over the same tradition. When I was living in Berlin, Germany, and my brother was in Munich, we compared our “traditional” Christmas Eve dinners. He had a huge meal with multiple courses, while up north, I had their tradition of German potato salad & “knackers” (basically sausages that are like boiled hot dogs). For the Berliners, they stick with the quick and easy to prepare since the mothers have been busy with everything else.
Christmas morning breakfast? For my family, our Christmas breakfast became our traditional meal. We always ate egg & sausage muffins, cranberry juice, fruit, and the traditional Santa bread. My mom makes Santa bread every year. It is a brioche type bread, and it isn’t Christmas without it.
Christmas dinner was always low-key with my family, but this year, we will also celebrate with the forbidden meat, pork. Just this past year, they have allowed pork in the country, but you have to be non-Muslim and have a license to buy it. We have purchased a small ham to share with friends.
What do you do on Christmas after you’ve opened all the presents? After opening presents, we always spent the day running up and down the street between our house and the neighbors, often ending in game playing & other interesting performances until we left to go to my grandparents’ house.
Thanks, Lindsay, for such a collage of Christmas memories! I wish I could see Santa arriving over the sand dunes – ha! I love the idea that “Christmas is something we have to plan and make time for.” Don’t you all agree? It’s about what’s in your heart, not what’s under your tree isn’t it? And it turns out you can have Christmas without a pretty green tree, or without having the day off of work, or without everyone singing the same songs you grew up knowing. It’s like the grinch says, right? Maybe Christmas is a little bit more. I think you’ve captured that for us, Lindsay. Thank you!
Join in the fun! Tell us all about your Christmas experiences here!