I have to say, I’ve never really understood Australians getting excited about their Christmas Day beach outings. Christmas is Christmas. Christmas is cold. Cold is Christmas. There’s no place for sun and sand at Christmas. Yes, yes, yes… I know the three wise men rode their camels over the dunes to some place fairly geographically close to where I am now… but riding off to a holy Yuletide beach party they were not.
It just boils down to Christmas being a little darn weird wherever you are, if you’re not at home. I harp on plenty about how much I hate the cold, the grey miserable skies, and the short days. We all harp on plenty about how much we hate the Christmas tat in the shops and the Christmas songs we hear at every turn. Or do we? It got to Christmas Day this year, and I was shocked to realise I hadn’t yet heard once the Christmas bells of Stay Another Day by East 17. On it went. A bit of the Pogues: absolutely essential. I’m still feeling a little bit weird because I haven’t heard Jona Lewie Stopping the Cavalry, or the ru-pu-pu-pumming of David Bowie and Bing Crosby.
We tinselled up the house, adequately draped flashing LED chains around the walls and bought a pre-decorated Christmas tree from the German Bakery in town, complete with chocolates hanging from its lovely, plastic, non-dropping boughs. As we carried the Christmas tree out of the taxi and back to the house, the smiley fish man (he sells and cooks fish, he’s not an unusual hybrid) dropped what he was doing and ran out of his shop to wish us “Many, many, many Christmas!” Many Christmas to you too, lovely fish man.
I wished another European friend of mine Merry Christmas today, a few days late, and she said to me “Ah, I’m not even baptised, don’t worry.” Yes, me neither; never attended a church service in my life. But surely you like buying stuff? Surely you like giving stuff you’ve bought with varying levels of thought? And you must like being cold and eating loads?
It’s a confusing time, I tell you. Yes, Christmas is stripped to its bare bones and yes, the principles are good. We’re still surrounded by family and loved ones. We made one of the best Christmas dinners in history and ate until we couldn’t move. We didn’t have to deal with any of the things we complain about every year. So this is all good, right? Sort of. But it seems that the things we complain about every year are absolutely fundamental to the full enjoyment of Christmas.
And I’ve realised the true reason behind Christmas TV. It’s for the poor bastards who get so sick over the festive season that they can’t muster the voice out of their poorly throats to sing a single carol, who can’t stomach the idea of a mince pie because they haven’t eaten anything in days thanks due to the latest round of fever-ridden winter flu. This year we played sofa tag team races as we were knocked down, one by one, by the evillest bug ever confronted by man. And there was not one single Christmas special of Only Fools and Horses, no E.T, no Snowman, no RI lectures that you kind of feel obliged to watch around intellectual company. MBC3 was ever so kind and gave us The Santa Clause III on Christmas Day. Well MBC3, you can take that one right back to the North Pole. III? Seriously? I had to make a serious amount of paracetamol fuelled trips to the local copied DVD shop to stock up – but still no Christmas movies in there. Not even The Santa Clause II.
However… I’m going to stop my moaning because even though it’s not what we’re used to and the Christmas spirit requires a huge amount of DIY, Christmas in Dahab is still absolutely magical. It really is. Banish all my afore-mentioned humbuggy thoughts. Dahab is one of the most unique and wonderful places in the whole wonky world – because of its incredibly diverse international community. You feel like you’re celebrating Christmas in Germany (specially thanks to some members of the community who bring St Nick in for the kids on a camel every year), Christmas in Norway (minus the cod and herring), Christmas in the UK (thanks to the stocks of tinsel and Christmas decorations that have finally made their way to the shops in Assalah Square), and Christmas in just about the warmest, most beautiful place on earth where all the restaurateurs prepare the most traditional Christmas Eve dinners, summonsing even Cranberry sauce from wherever they bloomin’ well can. Don’t forget, all these restaurateurs who bend themselves backwards over the Christmas dinner stove to make the perfect Christmas dinner aren’t actually celebrating themselves. They’re still remembering their last Eid celebrations, and they’ve been told that we too like to eat until we’re sick, and it’s a strict Christmas diet of turkey, lamb, or if you’re really pushing it, salmon. And don’t forget all the trimmings, which they have very, very well researched. It’s truly humbling.
Then, hurrah, we get to do it all again two weeks later when we’re lucky enough to be invited to celebrate Christmas with a Russian family. Yeeeeah. You don’t get that anywhere else. A massive meal on Christmas Eve with the Europeans. Christmas Day dinner with the Brits. Boxing Day leftovers in the restaurants that have caught on to that one. And roll it all out once again on 7 January, when everyone else has miserably taken down those jolly decorations and plunged once again into winter without twinkly lights.
When I get over the absolute travesty of not freezing our fingers off at Christmas, the repulsiveness of not having Christmas TV to escape into, the offensive situation in the shops of NOT having Christmas songs played at me whilst I work out the best of a bad bunch of present options, I see that Dahab has everything it needs by way of good old fashioned Christmas spirit.
But you can still count me out of a barbeque on the beach; there are limits, people.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, from Dahab.