Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December Homesickness and the Middle Eastern Me

I don't get homesick very often, but in December I always do. I left Canada not because I did not love the life there, but because the people, my people, sorely dissapointed me from the moment I put on a headscarf to announce to the world that I was proudly, but humbly, a Muslim woman. But December was different. You could call it the "Christmas spirit" I guess, as made-up a holiday as ever there was, but the 'good tidings' and 'good cheer' and 'good will to all men' part of that season people back home seem to practice in December, and that part of it is very real.
Why on earth should my Omani husband want to visit Canada in December, when he doesn't like the cold any more than I do?
Because of the spirit of December.
For some reason people hope again, are kinder, and after the bleak months of October and November, the world seems more full of light in its darkness, and more beautiful. Maybe because we decorate it and string up our lights, and even sing? I don't know. But that part is lovely. That part I miss.
This morning there, tonight here, my sister says they woke up to snow. I am so jealous.
I love snow. I love the look of it falling, I love the sight of it dusting the roof tops, I love it on trees, I love the taste of the air before it snows, I love sledding, I love snow ball fights, I love skiing, and skating. Snow gives everything a short second chance to be clean again, to be covered and pure. At least in my mind;).
I miss my old job of decorating store windows, planning Christmas office parties, decorating Christmas trees, and doing personal shopping for gentlemen who have no idea how to shop for their wives. Trust me, it was awesome, it was like James Bond-in-high-heels+Santa Claus meets temp. job at Martha Stewart. I even miss handwriting the invitations and thank you cards, which I rather hated at the time.
I miss Christmas decorating in general. I know as a Muslim, why it is shirk, and why I don't do it now, but that doesn't mean I don't treasure vintage family ornaments, and how fun and pretty it all was.
I miss the parties. Work, friends, clubs, school, you name it. I liked to dress up and be all crazy with girls while we tangled ourselves in tinsel and garlands and lights, and glued bows into each other's hair. I loved the romance of donning a ballgown and dancing, or going to the theatre or ballet. Or even a performance of the choir, singing carols. Now I could probably still do this in Oman, but everything always involved cocktails or wine as well, so now, I can't.
Also the food. Hot chocolate with peppermint, roasted chesnuts, cheese platters...and gingerbread is my favourite cookie. I am also rather fond of Turkey...and Turkey leftovers.
I like the family traditions as well. As a French family we got to open presents Christmas eve not the morning, but only some, because not every one was French. That always meant new pajamas and slippers. And the morning meant stockings or slippers filled to the brim with chocolates, peppermint, mandarin oranges, and cashews, along with make-up usually for me, and in the days before internet was used for music, CDs.

I honestly liked buying everyone presents. It wasn't too terribly commercial and if you couldn't afford you made or just handed out cards and candy.  The month before Christmas there were always a lot of craft markets to buy decorations from which made great affordable gifts. At these places there were boxes to donate toys and winter clothes for kids whose parents couldn't afford.

Also, we would go for a walk around the family property, in the woods, and I loved this best. One time we went horse back riding there, instead of walking, because of the snow. I think I was five but I still remember the snow on the evergreens and cedars perfectly.

Then we'd come in by the fire, open that years' family wine (Uncle J's was always the worst bottle that had gone bad on purpose), and talk until supper. Supper was served, and we'd open the Christmas crackers, and usually I would read because someone would buy me a decent book, but sometimes my Aunts and I would dance until dessert. My Auntie G is the coolest.

I have one Aunt, who liked to go to different Churches. So we'd see the live nativity scene at one Church, and attend Catholic mass at another. I liked singing hymns in Church, and the candles in a Catholic service. My father dislsikes Churches rather a lot, and my mother was always pressing me to be more Christian, so going with my rather spiritual Aunt on Christmas eve was memorable.

My father would force us to volunteer at the food charity for making hampers, and I had an Aunt who ran the charity Christmas dinner, so I usually had to help out with decorations or children's games while other people in the family who can actually cook served in the kitchen. Sometimes she'd make us freeze in the recruiting section, so we'd be on the street, trying to convince anyone, homeless and those more fortunate as well, to come down to eat and to take away gifts. My father also liked to visit the Ukranian Cultural center, because he loves their Christmas traditions.

I miss my family and my city, its food, things to see and do, and that sort of spirit, more than any time of year, in December, as an expat convert-Muslim woman living in the GCC. Every year I tell myself it will be less, but every year the missing is the same.
For any long time expats in Oman, is there a certain time of year that makes you homesick? And if so, what do you do about it? Because I am at a loss, truly.


Unknown said...

Assalamu aleykum. This is so ironic because i live in Norway and the christmas season is soooo overdone i think, even though i was born into a muslim family alhamdulilah so i never celebrated christmas with family, only in school settings etc and i just never felt at peace with it even as a kid. I always was soo excited for this season to be over just like now, maybe because I cant take part or im not busy with something most people stress over before christmas. Plus all the work before and after christmas. This time in arab countries are the best, the weather is not too hot and the city is less crowded, at least my experience in Dubai. I hope i made you think about the cons in of this commercial holiday. Maybe it can help in shaa Allaah. May Allaah make it easy for you. I would love to ask you questions related to living in Oman and oppurtunities :)

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

Unknown: Wa alaykom e salam. It was never very commercial for me but it was busy. I liked the busy parts though;) so that doesn't help much but the weather here is nice this time of year that's for sure. ameen to that.

Sure, ask away!

Anonymous said...

Salamoualaykoum i totally understand your feeling and i think only reverts can. Christmas is not just a commercial thing. It's about spirit as you said, childhood memory, family gathering... For some people Eid is super commercial too... a revert expat in Tunisia