With 2016 just around the corner, Christmas is well and truly over for another year. In general my festive season was hectic, unorganised, and a testament to how much can be achieved in the last minute. However, somehow, between all the running around, house guests and last minute ideas we managed to weave in some Christmas magic and create some wonderful memories which we will cherish forever. For the first time in years I have managed to sit down and look through my Christmas photos before Easter and seeing them made me think of all the great things about this Christmas.
So, in no particular order (except for the first one, that is definitely the top highlight), here are my Christmas 2015 Highlights:
1. Spending Christmas with family
This year we spent our ninth consecutive Christmas in Dubai, hard to believe. Being away from our families is generally one of the hardest things about being an expat and this is particularly difficult during the holidays, especially once kids are involved. Over the years we have been lucky enough to have various family and friends over to celebrate with us which makes all the difference. This year we had my sister and her family over which was extra special as her son was celebrating his first Christmas. It was so lovely to see all the kids getting on and enjoying the festivities and to be able to make this a Christmas to remember for all of us.
2. That this Christmas wasn’t about presents
This year I was trying to make a conscious effort not to go overboard on presents. The kids have way more than they need and there is definitely nothing that me or Mr. really need this year. There were no presents for the grown ups as previously agreed and the kids had a few things that they had asked Santa for. As it turned out, we were so busy getting ready to host Christmas dinner for 20 that we didn’t even have time to open presents on Christmas morning. The kids opened one each before breakfast and were happy enough with that until Boxing Day – Monkey got a golf glove so was super chuffed and temporarily forgot about the train he had also asked Santa for!
3. Christmas Traditions for the Kids
This year we carried on some of the traditions we started last year, like going to visit Santa at Wafi Mall and leaving out a mince pie and drink for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer on Christmas Eve, and we also started some new ones. I gathered lots of Christmas books together and wrapped each individually to make a Christmas book box and we opened one each night for 12 days of Christmas books, the munchkins loved it! (I don’t really count these books as presents as they are to share and we will read them every year.) We also had Christmas Eve boxes for the first time, the contents were quite simple this year but are sure to get more elaborate as the years go on – I will definitely be including hot chocolate and cookies when they are older! We even sprinkled reindeer food outside the house to entice the reindeer down which was fun, although I wasn’t expecting them to want to check if the reindeer food had gone the next morning so next year I’d better remember to wash it away after they have gone to bed! Perhaps my most treasured new tradition was reading The Night Before Christmas at bedtime and seeing Monkey giving it his full attention, getting completely absorbed into the story told by the poem even though there were no pages to turn and no pictures to admire. That poem will definitely be read every Christmas in our house from now on.
4. Matching festive pyjamas
Because they are just SO cute! These were one of the main items in our Christmas Eve boxes this year and something I hope to do every year for as long as they let me. As a bonus I managed to get pyjamas on buy 2 get 1 free at Mothercare just 2 days before Christmas!
5. The Portable North Pole
This was the second year I’d used The Portable North Pole to make free personalised video messages from Santa in his workshop in the North Pole. The kids get such a thrill from hearing Santa talk directly to them and seeing their picture in his special book, they watched the video messages over and over, even Missy loved it. I am tempted to get the paid version next year for extra features. Separately, I had a cheeky Santa calling photo on my iPhone – that proved to be a particularly effective tool to pretend Santa was calling me when Monkey wasn’t quite co-operating at bedtime, definitely something to save for next year!
6. Christmas Dinner Al Fresco
This is one of the special treats about celebrating Christmas in Dubai – being able to be outdoors and enjoy the lovely weather. I had to put a couple of tables together (including our indoor dining table) and the chairs didn’t match but none of that mattered on the day. It was my first attempt at setting a proper Christmas table and I thought it all came together ok on the day, I was particularly proud of my last minute Christmas tree napkins! We spent most of the day in the garden and even had a cheeky swim session in the pool – definitely not something we would be doing on Christmas day back in the UK! Although boxing day was unseasonably grey and wet so we were still able to get our Christmas jumpers on for Boxing Day brunch, the best of both worlds.
7. The Food
SO. MUCH. FOOD. Hands down the best Christmas dinner I have had in a long, long time. The turkey was from Jumeirah Beach Hotel and delicious by all accounts (I couldn’t say as I’m a vegetarian!) but Mr insisted on doing the side dishes and vegetables himself. I wasn’t convinced all the extra effort was needed since the turkey comes with sides but when I tasted his honey roast carrots, pan cooked brussel sprouts and amazing roast potatoes I really appreciated his efforts and insistence – the roasties were delicious – crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle, just as they should be (his secret appears to be par boiled potatoes into a roasting pan of hot oil). Added to the spread was the most flavour packed nut roast I’ve ever tasted and a delicious vegetarian stuffing brought along by friends (I am still waiting for them to send me the recipes), the vegetarians were definitely not shortchanged this Christmas! It was all finished off by a decadent dessert spread some hours later including mince pies, Christmas cake, cheese board and a super chocolatey Christmas log by Hey Sugar purchased from Milk & Honey, I enjoyed eating that many days later too!
8. Lawn Games
A little bit random or maybe not considering our Christmas Day guest list included Cambridge University Alumni. I’d bought a croquet set for the kids from Tchibo a few weeks ago and decided to get it out on Christmas Day as something to do outside to pass time between courses. It proved to be a surprise hit with the guys playing late into the night, none of the kids got a look in!
9. Secret Santa
This is one of our family traditions for when we are hosting a get together with a big mixed group of family and friends and is always good for a giggle, not least because I have a cheap Santa suit so someone is always nominated to do the honours! From my sister’s horror at receiving a book entitled “Can holding in a fart kill you?” to another guest’s confusion and fake happiness at receiving a hand carved statue of an indian god, this year was no exception. I went with a more sentimental crafty gift which I will share on the blog next year.
10. Christmas Crafts
Every special occasion is celebrated with crafts in our house and this Christmas was no exception. From our Santa’s Beard Christmas Countdown to homemade Christmas cards for daddy, cryptic message snowflake decorations which had everyone guessing, a washitape magnetic Christmas tree, gingerbread house decorating, Christmas snack making and a handmade reindeer t-shirt for Missy, we definitely got our make on this Christmas. My favourite Christmas craft keepsake however, is still our handprint Christmas wreath from last year, which I hung with pride again this year.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many other great memories I could list here, it really was the most wonderful time of the year!
What were your highlights from this Christmas? Leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you!