One of the joys of being a mama is creating special family traditions around the holidays and reliving customs from your childhood with your own kids; it’s a great chance to reflect on what we loved when we were little!. Below some of our Sassy Mama Dubai team share their favourite Christmas traditions and family rituals that help make this time of year so magical.
Anouk van der Meer, Sassy Mama Contributor
In the week before Christmas we get together for a special dinner with close friends where everyone makes a dish and we dine all evening. For our little starters to go with drinks we enjoy eel, blinis and special little wraps with duck. Starter can be Coquilles with asparagus and tuna tartar followed by lobster bisque and salad with three kinds of duck. For main we eat venison or rabbit and as dessert we enjoy a huge French cheese platter followed by sweets such as raspberry creme brulee.
For New Year the family defines a keyword/ buzz word for the year ahead – to sum up what the year will be about. And then there’s more food! On January 1st all friends and family come over in the afternoon with their leftovers, champagne and drinks from the night before and we party again until evening time and put up a video of all of the highlights from the previous year.
Claire Wood, Sassy Mama Contributor
As this is the first Christmas with our son, this is the perfect time to establish new family traditions. One of the new ones for us this year has been taking part in the Church nativity play- an annual occurrence for many families, but the first year for both of us since leaving school! We were very proud to see our son play the role of the ‘newborn King’, and I am looking forward to making costumes for his future roles in the year to come!
We will also be taking part in carol singing in the desert – I grew up in Qatar and we’d take a trip out to the ‘singing dunes’ each year to sing carols – so I’m excited to bring this tradition into our lives here in Dubai. Before the big day we always find time to take the obligatory family photo with santa hats on the beach in front of the Burj Al Arab – we will be able to look back on these in years to come and cherish these memories of our time in Dubai, going back to whilst the husband and I were still dating!
Christmas for our family means lots and lots of glorious food. Growing up the house was always filled with the scents of cinnamon and nutmeg, and I’ve been busy baking in the kitchen to try and recreate this for my son’s childhood! On Christmas Eve, there’ll be gingerbread cookies to leave out with a glass of milk for Santa (and carrot for Rudolph and team of course!). This is something I always used to look forward to doing, and hope my son will grow up enjoying this too. Once the snacks for Santa have been left out, we will then hang up our stockings before going up to bed.
Christmas Day will be spent at home unwrapping presents, feasting on turkey, and settling into the sofa to watch the Queen’s speech, followed by board games and indulging in too many chocolates from our stockings! We’re especially looking forward to creating more as our son grows older!
Dani Wilson, Sassy Mama Co-Founder
Since a young child to this day my mum wakes us all up in order for us to gather in the living room to all open presents (my younger sister is normally the last one downstairs as she has been out the night before so has only had a few hours sleep) On the coffee table mum will have out the bubbles and orange juice with her best champagne flutes ready to make the first drink of the day Bucks Fizz. We will take it in turns to open Christmas presents while the cork is being popped then we say a group cheers.
Last year we did this in the UK with my three children as we were all staying at my mum’s house. However this year we are staying as a family in Dubai and I will carry on my mother’s tradition – which means only one thing – more bubbles!
Fiona Archibold, Sassy Mama Contributor
My parents flouted the Christmas Turkey tradition, favouring a raucous fondue with three sons and myself under the age of 10. Expats before most of us, my parents in law adopted the fondue culture during their sejour in Geneva in the 1970’s. Sharing a family fondue with Nan and Grandad is now part of our collective family DNA. It’s not totally child friendly, however the kids adore it for the sense of occasion and imminent danger! Kids adore cooking their own food and picking and choosing their sauces. Assign a ‘responsible’ adult and all is well….
Kathryn Hawkes, Sassy Mama Contributor
Our current family tradition is picking a real tree in Satwa and decorating it all together. This year I plan to start a family journal where we record the family’s highlights, special occasions and/or achievements and milestones for that year.
Kaya Scott, Sassy Mama Editor
I love Christmas (I get excited about it as early as October when the first chill is in the air) – mainly because my family always made it such a magical and sparkly time. With Polish grandmothers, we celebrate on Christmas Eve – sitting down to eat as soon as the first star appears. There’s a lovely tradition of breaking bread that’s been blessed with the whole family over lots of kisses and wishes for the year ahead and then a huge feast before opening family presents.
Having grown up in the UK we also got to continue the celebrations on Christmas Day, opening pressies from Father Christmas in the morning and doing the whole roast turkey thing with a huge group of family and friends (my mum would gather anyone who didn’t have plans so there’d often be over 30 of us crammed around the table).
We’re staying in Dubai for Christmas this year and I’m doing everything I can to recreate the magic of my childhood for my little ones. The ‘fairies’ have decorated our tree, the stockings have been hung and we’ll be leaving tasty treats for Santa and his reindeer to eat when they visit on Christmas Eve. We’re joining Fiona and her family on Christmas Day for an epic feast and a lot of fun – and then attempting a ‘walk of champions’ along the beach from the Burj Al Arab to Jumeirah on Boxing Day. I’ll miss being with my family in the UK but I’m re-living the excitement of this time of year through my kids eyes and am loving every minute!
Louise Alves, Sassy Mama Contributor
Every year all the children in our family get a new Christmas decoration on Christmas eve to put on the tree and to then keep/collect. I also extend this to my god children.
My sisters and I always watch Love Actually (with or without each other) every year to get into the Christmas spirit.
Our family have just started a new tradition where we put a Christmassy item into a box for each person. On Christmas Eve we open the box late afternoon before the kids have bath and go to bed. This year we’ve got Reindeer PJs for my girls to wear on Christmas Eve, Christmas socks for the hubbie and who knows what for me! Ive also put in a new traditional Christmas story book to read on Christmas Eve with the kids before bed.
Megan Hills, Sassy Mama Editorial Assistant
There are lots of things I love about Christmas that I know annoy my friends to no end: Josh Groban’s inevitable Christmas album, people singing carols off-key in the street and a compulsory viewing of The Nightmare Before Christmas. That said, my favourite tradition is waking up on Christmas Day to find my dad in a horrendous Christmas jumper, my brother half-asleep and my mum fussing about with tea as we all gather under the tree. Just being with everyone as we open our presents is the highlight of the day and there’s always a sneaky gift to each of us supposedly from our dog, who naturally has his own little Santa hat. Christmas Day lunch is a big thing for us as well and it’s usually a confusing yet amazing mesh of British and Filipino fare spent with the people I love most. (Don’t let them know though, I’ll never hear the end of it.)
Mia Man, Sassy Mama Contributor
We spend Christmas and NY in South Africa with my husband’s family – the weather’s hot that time of year and so we have a BBQ (or South African “braai”). My husband’s side of the family is quite big, so Christmas day is all about family and friends coming together around the braai and good wine.
I love that each family member contributes by bringing dessert or helping to prepare the vegetables – it’s a team effort. I (obviously as a raw food chef) take on the role of “salad girl” as opposed to handling any meat. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
Dr Rania Ayat Hawayek, Sassy Mama Contributor
Christmas starts on a weekend morning (usually the last weekend in November). We have a family breakfast, then blast carols while we put up our tree. This sits on a table, around which we construct an nativity scene. Everyone lends a hand. My kids especially love all the miniature houses, animals and trees. Once the kids are in bed, it’s time for red wine and roasted chestnuts. Pure Christmas bliss.
The kids are convinced that there’s advent calendar magic, and I absolutely love that. We have one of those big felt Advent calendars with pockets, and each evening, my husband and I leave a little treat for the kids in the pocket of the next day. When they wake up in the morning, the first thing they do is run to see what “Santa’s helpers” left for them overnight. I’m forever trying to find strange looking chocolates or little treats that they’ve never seen before, so they pass as being made in the “North Pole”.
In Sweden you celebrate on the 24th December with a traditional Smorgasbord packed to the brim with variations of herring, meatballs, sausages and cinnamon-scented red cabbage. We start stuffing our faces just after midday and the feast continues until early evening. Most families will then move on to opening their Christmas gifts that have been lying under the tree all day. My family however had this fun (slightly weird I admit) tradition of going into our garage and cellar to dig out the weirdest hats we could all find and then go for a long walk to parade our finds around the neighborhood. Needless to say, I found this tradition less fun during my teen years.
We usually spend Christmas with our families in South Africa on the farm, where we do a classic family dinner on Christmas Eve and a big day full of feasting and family fun around the pool on Christmas day, followed by a nice walk in the evening. The kids typically get a surprise gift of new PJs on Christmas eve (left on their bed by Santa’s little elves). With their new Pj’s on, the kids get to prepare a treat for Santa and his reindeer… they make a card, put out carrots and mince pies with a beer for Santa and his entourage. We leave a dusting of flour (perhaps sand this year, as we’ll be in Dubai) below an open window for evidence that the fat man has come himself…
This year we’re teaming up with a bunch of friends for Christmas day, so we’ll probably start the day with Skype calls and chats to family back home before we start preparing the feast for the day.
Wherever you’ll be this holiday season mamas, and whatever you’ll be doing, we wish you the happiest of holidays filled with warmth, laughter and lots of love. Clearly a good meal wouldn’t hurt, either!