The Holidays in the Middle East

Christmas decoration in the mountains of Oman

It may be that I was trained at an early age, but I always find it weird to be a warm location during the holiday season. Snow should be coming out of the sky, forcing me to bundle up in a warm coat, and watch the blinking lights from a safe distance. The malls should be crowded with holiday shoppers, and everybody should be in good cheer.

Jabreen Fort in Oman

But when it is warm out, it doesn’t have the same feel. I want to go for hikes, and explore the world around me. This was more the focus of this holiday season, and though it may have been different, in a way, it was more authentic.

Abu Dhabi’s skyline

In the hustle and bustle that we lose ourselves into during every holiday season, we sometimes forget that in reality, it is not about the snow, and pine trees. It is not about the presents, and the parties. It actually started off in a very humble manner, in the place where I am now living, and traveling through during the holiday season. Maybe, instead of having this Nordic experience every year, we should turn our attention to sand, and camels.

The Old House in Misfah, Oman

Despite the stringing up of power lines, and the introduction of indoor plumbing, the Middle East has not changed a lot over the two thousand years since the birth of the holiday season. There are many opportunities to find small old houses to stay in, sleeping on the floor, and hearing the voices of animals just outside your window. The community still gathers together in those places for meals, and enjoys the company of each other under skies that do not threaten you with anything more than a warm day. It is completely unlike anything that we think about when the holiday season comes to mind.

Staircase up to the Imam’s rooms in Jabreen Fort in Oman

Granted the Middle East is a predominantly Muslim part of the world, and the further that I get away from my home in Jordan, the harder it is to see the aspects of Christianity that I grew up with and became accustomed to. That does not mean that the holidays are not celebrated there. New Year’s Eve looks like the bigger celebration, especially in the bigger cities, but still there are aspects of Christmas around as well. It is just shown in different ways, and it reminds me of those ornaments that, as a child, we always placed on the bottom part of the tree. They were of shepherds, and camels, and donkeys, and of course, the whole crew to fill out the nativity, and those are everywhere to be seen out in the Middle East. It just reminds me of a Christmas celebration that is sometimes pushed to the side, instead of being celebrated more.

The Corniche beach in Abu Dhabi

Though I found myself wandering the desert, and relaxing on the beach this holiday season, it did not mean that it wasn’t any less special. Yes, it definitely felt different than what I was accustomed to, but it was still a nice way to spend the holidays.

Sunset in Abu Dhabi

The beauty of the season did not come in electric systems that were put to the test to keep lights blinking, but instead from the explosion of color in the sky that came from when the sun set. The warmth of the season did not come from bundling up close to a fire, but standing in the sand letting the sun thaw me out. The feeling of the season still came from those I was able to share it with which, in the end, is what the holiday season should be about.

Al Qana in Abu Dhabi

I did enjoy the time that I got to have in both Oman and Abu Dhabi. It is a side of the world that I have gotten to explore, and I do believe that this experience has given me a greater appreciation for the place in the world that I live in. I hope that you can come to the same agreement with wherever you find yourself. Be sure to appreciate the ones you are near, and look forward to not just the dawn of a New Year, but each day that follows it.

Thanks again, until next time.

A Snowy New Year

It started last night when I arrived at my brother’s house. I had gone down to Castle Rock so I could ring in the New Year with a couple of my family members, and there was a little grumbling about how it was a terrible night to have it snow. It would make driving difficult, and a bunch of idiots would be out on the road after they had drunk one too many. There would be wrecks all over the place, and the police would be driving around to make sure everybody was safe. If only it could have waited a couple more days, the much anticipated snow would be welcomed in the state of Colorado.

I did not feel the same way. First of all, the first big snow of the year would keep people from going out and doing stupid things. It would also bring much needed moisture for an area of the world that was thirsting for any drop. The fires that started up north and destroyed a big part of Boulder county would also welcome the snow because it would put an end to the destruction.

These were all great reasons to be excited about the snow, but the real reason I wanted to see it was because it was snow! I remember a time in my life when I would grumble and complain like many of the other people that I spent the night with when the snow continued to pound the front range throughout the course of the Winter. Most of these complaints came during the later Winter months such as late February, March, and late into April when I was done with the wet and cold. But it has a different feeling when it first arrives. It brings in the change of the season, and marks an end to the one I had just experienced. I would get enjoy cold days of drinking hot coffee and looking out the window and the snow collected on the ground, creating a blanket of calm and peacefulness. I would have an excuse to snuggle in the warmth of my home while reading good books and watching movies. I knew I would eventually tire of this feeling, but when it first began, I would get excited about the prospect of what the next few months would bring.

It had been at least two years since I had experienced this change of the season, and I never knew how much I would miss it. I know it seems like a silly thing to miss, but there is a certain amount of joy that comes with the changing of the seasons. As the earth makes its rotation around the sun, the seasons give you a small, little thing to always look forward to. Every three to four months, you get to change the way you live your life, so you will not fall into rut of an everyday routine. When I lived in the eternal summer months of Thailand, I quit paying attention to pages of the calendar flipping because it meant nothing more than another day of more of the same.

Of course, part of the reason that I came out to Colorado for the Winter Break was to see my family and spend the holidays with them. It was great to hop around from home to home and enjoy their company for an evening or two. I was able to create a few new memories that I will take with me as I fly back to Jordan and return to my life there. But I will be honest; this was not the only reason that I came out. I wanted to see that snow. I wanted to experience the change of the seasons, and as my time out here continued, I kept on missing that chance. As I was making my way to the New Year’s Eve celebration, I was happy to see snow spitting from the sky. As the night progressed, I was even more excited to see it collect on the patio furniture in the back yard. And as I woke up this morning to greet the New Year, I was excited to see the whole city had been covered in this white goodness.

I know many of you might not have had the same experience, and you may not feel the same way as I do, but I hope that your New Year’s celebrations brought you what you wanted to get out of them. I also hope that 2022 brings you happiness and joy, and that you get to anticipate something great as well, no matter how small that thing may be.

The Next Ten Years

When we look back over the last ten years,
we wonder where did this strange decade go.

Did you fill it up with sadness or cheer,
and do we measure the way we did grow?

Living starts to make a little more sense
though the world may have left us behind.

Newer technology may make us tense,
and society may have grown less kind,
but we have learned how to come together
within our own little community.

Gathering ourselves around each other
will make next decade a thing of beauty.

It is hard not to think what came before
when we knock upon this milestone’s door.

A Toast on the Morning of New Year’s Day

Nowhere is the place we need to go to,
And we need to get there at anytime.
There we can meet up with ev’ryone who
Have found their pride in being past their prime.
We can make a toast to our empty glass
Remembering those specific moments
We have recorded from our future’s past,
Gift wrapped up to be given as presents.
Heavy hangovers will be shared by none,
Thinking on our individual sins,
But it does not matter what we have done
When we are judged by where action begins.
Mark your anytime you spend in nowhere
For no one finds it important to share.