Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas Memories from Oman

I wasn't born a Muslim but I spent a few Christmas seasons in the middle east. The sight of all the gorgeous options for decorating for the holiday now in Muscat 2015 bring back jealous pangs from childhood. Let me tell you about Christmas in Oman way back when:
Oh but first, let me tell you about the other day.
Recently shopping in Carrefour the other day, I saw the Christmas section. In grand mall, my daughter fell in love with the Pink tree at the home store there (I forget its name). She told me she wants one for her bedroom. I am like, do we really need a pink Christmas tree considering we don't even celebrate Christmas? She's like, "we can have an Eid tree".
Knowing the origins of Yule and the Winter Solstice (Pagan thing) behind Christmas trees, that idea is sketchy even for me (and I have a penchant for purchasing Christmas lights and glass bulbs and stars and stuff meant for Christmas but to use for Eids). So we probably won't buy a pink Christmas tree, although I've always wanted to decorate a white coloured fake Christmas tree;).

...So I told her if she wants a pink tree bad enough she can save her money and buy it for herself. She said she will. We'll see next year won't we?
WHEN I WAS A KID IN OMAN there were no pink Christmas trees...Not even very good looking fake green ones either. We had a fake tree that looked like something from Charlie Brown (tv Christmas special in case you don't get the reference).
We used to buy ornaments as gifts, and bring them to Oman because what they had here were all red and white plastic things, and those horrible garlands that are bright mettalic colours and look like fluffy bottle cleaners? ...Although my mother would sometimes buy Diwali decorations when that Hindu holiday was, and re-make them to hang on a Christmas tree. I remember buying abaya crystals and using that gun meant to stick them on abaya sleeves to stick crystals on ugly ornaments.
Usually we'd try to make popcorn garlands but would get bored of that. We made wreaths out of twigs, and then glue-gunned some rocks we'd painted red to look like berries to them. We were pretty crafty I guess. Those things were pretty ugly nonetheless.

My mother sewed and then hand embroidered stockings for us. We couldn't find any stockings, and my step-father, American that he was, didn't like our French ideas of Christmas shoes set out, and opening presents the night before. Open-toe shoes also kind of suck for that tradition.
What we could find were Camels. Lots and lots of camels. So we had camel candy-dishes, camels galore in a nativity scene, giant camels at the door like other people would have like giant nutcrackers or snowmen. We were in the middle east so we tried to go with the whole Christian end take on Christmas, birth of Issa alayhi wa salaam (aka better known to white people as Jesus) and all. My mother would be like, let's go buy gold and frankincense (luban) and myrhh!!!

And we could, because, Oman is like, the perfume center of world when it comes to buying odd ingredients that go into perfumes. And Mutrah had a pretty impressive gold souq. I haven't gone there since I was a non-Muslim expat kid;).

The thing I remember most about Christmas in Oman was the lights. The lights induced a lot of swearing and fighting and arguing, and general running away from home incidents.
The lights were those one strand things, that when one light burns out, all the lights go dead.

Yeah so my mother likes to have a fake tree up a whole month before Christmas. So every time a light burnt out she'd freak out and have to UNDECORATE THE WHOLE TREE and then sort the string out, find the problem bulb, and then re-decorate the tree. I swear, she was probably the only other expat in PDO who did this crazy stuff. Our neighbors usually only had lights on their tree the first two days they plugged it in and then they'd logically (reasonably) give up, and said if we bought more wine and made cocktails nobody would notice our tree had no lights. Whereas, my mother would freak and out and be saying F*%% you!!!!!! to the Christmas tree at least once a week for a whole month. But she took their advice about the wine. So we drunkenly decorated the Christmas tree several times a month before Christmas.

If, by chance, my stepfather happened to mention that this was indeed the actions of a total lunatic, he and my mother would fight so bad he'd have to leave the house, and we usually decided to go with him, because who wants to hang out with a crazy person fighting a tree?

Thus as a result I got to see some pretty cool places in Oman because of bad-quality christmas lights. Old forts and castles (before restoration some of them---some of the places now are only dust or have been replaced by resorts and hotels), desert, mountains, abandoned beaches....
That's pretty cool for a kid. I mean, it wasn't like Christmas in London, or San Fransisco, or even Texas, and certainly not like a French family Christmas in Canada, but it was something unique from Oman. That, and swearing at Christmas trees.

We'd also host a Christmas dinner where my mother would invite everybody from PDO she thought was a Christian (which half of them were Budhist and the other half were Hindu). Thus Christmas consisted of a group of truly confused people who were half scared to death of us, and as kids, my sister and I, we loved to scare them more so we'd love to tell people about Santa Claus "who sees you when you're sleeping" and the Snowman that becomes real when he puts on a magic hat. Scary stuff to people whose English isn't that great. They thought Christmas as a holiday was pretty nuts, I am sure, despite my mother's Christian intentions to feed all the labourers and sweepers and cat-catchers employed by PDO.

Somehow we'd have a Turkey dinner, and my mother would set out all the silverware, and cloth napkins, and silver napkin rings, and then our guests would be all confused because they usually ate with their hands, and in the end I got to eat a formal dinner with my hands which (rebel that I am) I always thought was pretty awesome.

That is how I remember Christmas in Oman. Now with pink Christmas trees and all that available, is Christmas still as crazy and weird for expats living over here? Or was my family just a bunch of total weirdos;)?
Happy December Sun-Worhsipping Winter Solstice (because a Roman Census in Jesus' time period would not have taken place during this month all historians know)---to quote Sheldon Cooper from the 'Big Bang Theory' ---to all our blog's readers. May it be more stress free than the Christmas days of yore.


Raheel said...

Camels and frankincense XD That's very nativity-themed, at least.

I remember having Christmas-light-untangling duty as a kid! I was the only one patient enough. What a pain in the neck. I don't think I've dealt with Christmas lights in nearly twenty years.

Disappointed said...

(aka better known to white people as Jesus)? Not a nice remark.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Raheel: That is one blessing of being Muslim for sure lol, although I don't think that would make the pamphlets about "don't celebrate Christmas" ;). Those always are like, make me wanna celebrate Christmas just to say those people have no idea how to give advice to new Muslims lol.

Disappointed: What is not nice about it? Specifics please. I meant no offense but as a white person lol, I think it is pretty true;). Most white people will have no idea who Issa is if you refer to him by the Arabic. Same as if you you are saying, ya'll Westerners better know John from the Bible as John, but Muslims call him Yahya... I don't think that is offensive at all but pretty factual.

A lot of white people and Westerners (and I am sure other races as well but I can only talk for my own) have no idea that Muslims like Jesus and love him too;). So I always found it nice to know another name people call him by.

Sorry, I did mean no offense. This post is making fun of life in Oman.

Usagi♥Riri said...

I can't wait to buy little snowmans and candles in bahrain for the Xmas holidays ^ _ ^