Christmas in Kuwait - 2011

(Written December 2011) My husband called me at home last week with some good news!

Hubby: “Remember I put our names in for a raffle at work for a real Christmas tree? Well, we won!”

Julia: “A real tree?” … pause for thought… “We have a tree already, and it’s up and decorated.”

Hubby: “Yeah, but this is a REAL tree and it’s six feet tall!”

Julia: “But we have a tree already, and it’s up and decorated.” (silence on the line) “We’ll have to water it. And did it come with a stand? Where are we going to put it? Are you going to take down the other tree and then put new lights and decorations on this one?” [This actually is a fair point as I am the designated decorator in our house if we want decorations at all.]

Hubby (sotto voce): “But I’ve never had a real tree.” (Cue “Charlie Brown heartbroken” theme.)

And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say - that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day. And then - the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of *ten* Grinches, plus two! So squelching my inner-Grinch, and with a new-found burst of holiday enthusiasm, I said, “A second tree is great. We can keep it in water until we can get a stand.” Sigh.

I’m not usually the Grinch at Christmas. In fact, I’m typically obnoxiously festive. In our first year of marriage, my husband made me agree to wait to put up Christmas decorations until the first weekend in December, despite my intent to start after the first load of dishes was done on Thanksgiving.

I love everything wonderful about Christmas; the music, the feelings, the lights and ornaments, the movies, the concerts, the parties, the gift-buying. I love it all. But this year has been a bit of a struggle for me and I’m going to blame my sluggish holiday enthusiasm on the year we’ve had.

I did manage to push through my holiday-apathy and decorate our house, a little. I only put up about a quarter of our decorations, though I did throw up our fake-tree with lights and a handful of ornaments (mostly those that were at the top of the box). Part of this festive push came from our decision to throw our annual cookie party, which we started when we lived in Cairo. But I have to say that without the pressure of people coming to the house for a holiday bash, I might not have done even this much.

Conversely, Kuwait is bustling with seasonal joy. I have to admit that seeing all the stores decorated for Christmas is a bit of a shock to my senses. Even the grocery store Lulu’s is decked out to the nines with trees and lights and even that classic beauty the fuchsia-tree. I guess I had come to Kuwait with the assumption that it was more religiously conservative than Egypt, and therefore would not be doing the whole fuchsia-tree thing. And yet, they are far greater Santa enthusiasts than the Egyptians ever were – at least from a commercial sense!

But, now with our new real Christmas tree waiting in a bucket outside, we added one more task to our holiday preparations list and headed off to True Value Hardware (I’m not kidding, it’s located right next to Ace Hardware – I’m telling you, it’s so western here it’s almost disappointing), because my husband had heard that they carry stands for trees. After perusing the Christmas aisles, of which there were many, we came up empty. I did spot a nice red velvet bow that I thought might look festive on our front door, but then seeing that they were charging $24 for it, I quickly put it down.

After thoroughly wandering, we were still sans tree stand. We asked a few people if they carried stands and were told, “No,” “Check the Christmas aisle”, and otherwise got some blank stares. My husband, being ever so determined went back to the Christmas aisles and scoured them again. While I was wandering through the housewares (not really shopping, moreso checking out very expensive dishes made in China), my husband popped back and said he’d found one, sort of. I followed him back and saw that he was pointing to a sturdy plastic stand, definitely designed for real Christmas trees, but it appeared to be part of a display. “This is the only one I found,” he said. So, with a practiced move, such might be used to swap prices in a thrift store, I casually rearranged the fake poinsettias and grabbed the stand and we headed out with quite possibly the last remaining Christmas tree stand in Kuwait (made in Troy, Michigan). Maybe it was the excitement with which my husband embraced his new tree, or maybe it was the fact that he actually helped put the ornaments on (which he typically has no interest in), or possibly it was the festive scent of citrus in the air to discourage all the felines from munching on either tree, or maybe it was just the distant sound of the Whos down in Whoville singing wa-hoo wa-hoo that finally ignited my Christmas spirit. Whatever it was, I’m finally ready and eager to welcome Christmas in this year. ‘Tis definitely the season for miracles. God bless us, every one!