Letter from Oman! Salome Bader couldn't get in the spirit of Christmas.
Jan 12, 2016
While people in Germany were lighting candles during Advent, complaining about the cold weather, looking forward to the first snow, I was sitting in a room cooled down to 20° C with air conditioning. Outside it was 30° C – like every day, and the sun was burning down on everything. A friend and I considered getting Christmas decorations and at least pretending that we were getting ready for Christmas as in previous years. But I decided against it because I just wasn't able to get into the spirit of Christmas.
Christmas is much more than a festival at the end of the year when people exchange gifts. Christmas is a feeling, an atmosphere, a time to look forward to and prepare for. The Christmas spirit is an important part of it. It usually starts setting in when the first speculatius and gingerbread cookies are sold in the stores, the shop windows are decorated, the weather gets colder, the Christmas markets are opened, or it snows.
Trying to imagine all of that here and now doesn't help. In December it felt like the end of September, which is when I left Germany. Since then, the weather here got a little cooler – from 40° C in the shade, by Advent we were down to a pleasant 30° – but the burning sun prevented a sense of winter or anything approaching a Christmassy feeling.
Christmas is not an important issue here
During my high school exchange year in New Zealand, I also experienced Christmas during the summer, but the shop windows were decorated, and people got together to bake Christmas cookies. In Oman Christmas is not really celebrated. Of course, I understand that I am living in a Muslim country. There were a few Christmas decorations that could be purchased in the stores, but they were not on display in the showcases, but rather on a shelf among other products. Christmas is just not an important issue here.
Halloumi wraps instead of raclette
I spent Christmas Eve on the beach with a friend. We enjoyed the sun, the heat, and having the day off. Because the birthday of the Prophet Muhammed was being celebrated on December 24, that day was also a legal holiday in Muslim Oman. Later we ate halloumi wraps instead of raclette – at least cheese and a small reminder of our traditional Christmas dinner.
It was a different kind of Christmas than I had experienced so far, actually a totally new experience. And that, after all, is one of the reasons I went abroad – to experience new things and different ways of life.