Christmas is coming to Kuwait… you can tell by the slight chill in the air (temps have dropped to the mid 80s), the dearth of powdered sugar on the grocery store shelves, and the ever-increasing piles of chocolate Santas for sale. But the key sign that Christmas is a mere six weeks away is when Ace Hardware stocks their store with rows of fake Christmas trees in such dizzying colors that even a four-year-old would stare in disbelief. I remember growing up and hearing all the adults bemoan the arrival of Christmas décor within seconds of the end of Thanksgiving. Then, as I became an adult, I, too liked my holidays separated, and would adamantly refuse to listen to caroling before the wee hours of Black Friday. So when I moved to the Middle East almost five years ago, I figured I wouldn’t have to endure the creeping ever-earlier Christmas season. But I was woefully wrong.
During our time in Egypt, I quickly learned that Egyptians love any reason to string up colored lights and twinkling decorations. Most of the boats bobbing around the Nile at night are so lit up they glow. I’ve even gotten into Cairo cabs that were draped in blinking neon lights on the inside. Aside from being seizure-inducing, it always added a bit of whimsy. So the arrival of the Christmas season, regardless of its Christian undertones, meant an added excuse to get that seventy-fourth string of blinking colored lanterns out (or stars or oranges or cherries or bows) and string ‘em up. So coming to Kuwait, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But after witnessing the explosion of gaudy decorations last year, I felt fully prepared. And yet, I still found myself doing a double-take at the Ace Hardware display this year. Maybe it was the pink neon tree, or the pale brown tree that brought to mind the Januarys of all my childhood Christmases where the live tree didn’t look so live anymore, or the blazing sunlight and the 90 degree temps, but apparently I wasn’t as prepared as I thought.
After adjusting to my initial surprise at Ace Hardware, I ventured over to the Avenues Mall where my Christmas cheer induction continued; from the crooning carols in Pottery Barn, to the Swedish Christmas décor in IKEA, to ordering my daughter’s first Christmas stocking at Pottery Barn Kids. It was all so wonderfully festive. I could have be shopping in Tysons Corner, Virginia, had it not been for the Christmas stockings monogrammed for Ahmed, Hala, and Fouad in Arabic. Even our grocery store, LuLu, is just as festive this year as it was last year. Although I think their neon rainbow of Christmas trees has surpassed last year’s collection. So, feeling already behind the Christmas ball this year, I shall drag out our decorations and thoroughly drape our home in festivity, all the while figuring out how to keep the baby and the cats away from the Christmas tree without resorting to chicken wire and “Caution” tape.
You know, maybe I’m finally getting the Middle East Christmas spirit; I'm feeling that our home may need a purple tinsel reindeer this year. We all need a touch of Christmas Kuwait-style, right?