Christmas in Saudi

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Well, this is definitely one Christmas that will forever remain in our memories.  For starters, this is my first Christmas ever away from ALL my family.  In 34 years, I have always been with family for Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning.    
On top of that, I live in a country where you aren't even supposed to be celebrating Christmas.  There are no mall Santa's to take your kids to see, no fun neighborhoods overloaded with Christmas lights, no holiday wrapping paper, no crazy shopping days...it's kind of like the land that Christmas forgot.  (though it was never here in the first place, of course)
It's made for a very surreal holiday.  It didn't seem to bother Lily very much (my youngest), but Sara had a hard time understanding why we didn't have a bigger tree (we are now very happy to just have the little tree we managed to get into the country!) or lights decorating the house...she has a great memory of past Christmas.  
Gift buying was interesting as well.  Shipping anything to this country costs an arm and leg (or two).  So, there was no way we could ask family to send gifts.  Instead, we discussed amounts and I went and bought everything and they reimbursed me for the girl's gifts.  Not much fun for family, but there was really no other option.  As for gifts for our family in the states...well, all I can say is HELLO Amazon.  I really did miss window shopping for ideas at the mall though.

So, in doing our best to make this as wonderful as possible, we found ways to make it feel a little more like Christmas.  In a package from my mom we were able to get stockings and some Christmas lights.  I actually found garland at ToysRUs...go figure.  I found a xmas radio app for my iPad so I could listen to Christmas music.  We made sugar cookies and decorated them.  The girls cousin's in Texas sent a Hallmark talking book about the Night Before Christmas and we've listened to that every night before bed.  My gifts were wrapped...though not in the fun holiday paper I'm so used to.  One of the best parts we the two parties we attended in one of the compounds.  Santa was there (twice!) to greet the kids and he even handed out presents.  We greatly enjoyed that and are so thankful for those who put it all together.

Christmas Eve is a big deal in my family.  We get dressed up, have a huge meal, let the kids open one gift and then watch Christmas Vacation.  I really wanted to do my best to make it the way I've always known.  So, we invited some close friends over for dinner.  Since there is no pork here, I settled for making a roast in the oven.  I managed to pull off making my first batch of perogi's all by myself (a traditional dish we have every Christmas).  Our friends brought some of their holiday faves as well.  Dinner was wonderful and so was the company...and my sweet friends even indulged me and watched the movie!  We really did have a good time...even if it was still so very different from anything I've ever known.
Christmas morning arrived.  Matt had to work, (no day off for Christmas here) so he left early and came back when I called and told him the kids were up.  The girls waited in our bedroom while we got camera and video ready.  They were so excited to see all the gifts!  We were able to skype family back in the states (still celebrating Christmas Eve) and they watched the girls while they opened presents.  (once again, I want to thank the creators of skype...can't imagine life without it)  After the gifts were open, Matt headed back to work.  
So, there I was.  Christmas over.  Home alone with the kids.  No where else to go.  Usually we have to meet up with more family and we get decked out in new dudes and head out for more celebrations.  Instead, I spent 3 hours putting together toys for the girls.  Of course, they didn't realize anything was amiss...they had a ton of new toys!  (more than I realized)  It was such a weird feeling...to have so little to do and no one to see on Christmas Day.  
To try and make future Christmases a bit more special for our family, I decided that morning to instigate a new holiday tradition for our family.  Our Christmas Day evening ritual would consist of Chinese takeout and watching a Christmas Story on tv.  So, no matter where we are in the world, we will have this tradition to take with us..started in Saudi.  

I still can't believe Christmas has come and gone.  With none of the flare I'm so used to.  But, I will say one thing...my life is blessed.  So many are separated or have no family around.  So many weren't able to provide gifts for their loved ones.  I'm thankful that I was with my hubby and girls on Christmas.  I'm thankful for those that worked with us and provided the many gifts the girls were able to open on Christmas morning.  We are lucky to have such loving and understanding families.  So, I hope that all of you had a special Christmas with those you love.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year...from Saudi.  



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