Zein Al Maha Oweis (Zee) (she/her)
As we near the end of the year, I am sitting at my desk in the Advanced Research Center (ARC), counting down the days until Christmas (T-11 days). This is the time of year when I would normally fly home to Jordan to spend some quality time with my family but, due to the unstable situation unfolding in the Middle East, this year will be different – a more low-key Christmas. Which is why, as I sit at my desk working on one of my PhD finding chapters, I start to reminisce about all the reasons why I love this festive season.
Cold Weather = mother stokes the fire
Every time I go home to Jordan for Christmas, I am greeted by the warmth of my childhood home where all my fondest memories came to life. The roof that shielded me during my younger years before I set out to explore what the world has to offer. The best way I can describe being home is through the senses. Being engulfed by the warmth of my family; enthusiastically inhaling the smells of grandmother’s delicious Jordanian and Lebanese cooking, such as her famous Kubbeh; and the aroma of cinnamon and spices overlapping one another as the crackling sounds of the fireplace greet my ears.
When mother kindles the fireplace, you know that you’re in for a frosty night. Everyone is dressed in their pyjamas, Michael Bublé’s ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ plays in the background while we gather around the fireplace. Scotch and Nelson, my Pomeranian and Miniature Retriever, snuggle in next to us, flaunting their Christmas jumpers. On occasion, Nelson’s obnoxious snores interrupt the music and chatter, but what can I say? The little furball always wants everyone to know of his presence.
Head to a Christmas market near you
I always look forward to visiting different Christmas markets. Europe has some notorious ones, and so I make sure to get my annual dose at least once during the festive holiday season. My favourites are those in Austria and Germany. However, for one slightly closer to home, the Edinburgh Christmas market is a tantalising option.
It has become a yearly tradition to visit a Christmas market, either with friends living in Scotland or with family when visiting Europe. To make the most of it I would recommend going as early as possible. Things I really enjoy doing at markets, especially in freezing temperatures, is clutching mulled wine between chilly hands, or taking a deep sip of an authentic hot chocolate (whipped cream and mini marshmallows are an advisable addition). Do not forget the photographic evidence! Iconic pictures of you lit up with joy, a post-mulled-wine-glow, and the lights of the Ferris wheel. If you are an adrenaline-seeker like myself, then look no further as the Edinburgh Christmas market has some remarkable roller coaster rides. This year my ride of choice was a swing that whisked me high above the Edinburgh skyline and spun me around. I would recommend layering up. I was too engulfed in merry-making to bother about staying warm, and the sharp gusts of Scottish wind kindly brought me back down to Earth…. Must be why I lost my voice the morning after. Which Christmas market have I set my sights on for 2023? Glasgow’s Christmas Fair.
Who is your Secret Santa?
The question on the tip of all our tongues is who is our Secret Santa this year. Before moving to Glasgow, I had never been a part of exchanging gifts as a Secret Santa. I usually hunt down gifts that I feel represent the essence of the recipient. I am somewhat a card guru so, to ensure my title is upheld, I must find the right card to accompany a gift. However, as of last year, my friend group decided to do a Secret Santa. It was a lovely new addition to an ever-growing Christmas tradition.
For those that don’t know, you are presented with a hat, out of which you draw the name of a friend, family member, or co-worker. This will be the lucky giftee. But each gift is double wrapped: once the wrapping paper is peeled back, a new layer of secrecy envelops the mystery gifter. After everyone unwraps their gifts, the guessing game of who got whose gift begins. Even my guide dog Mitch got a gift from Santa Paws!
Christmas is a state of mind, not a date on a calendar. Whichever way you decide to celebrate yields a unique definition of Christmas. I for one cannot wait to see my family and celebrate with them, fill up on delicious food and cuddle my fur babies. This year, my family’s Christmas will fall in January, not December. It’s beginning to look a lot like I’ll be getting an extended festive season. So go forward and be merry, as Christmas is right around the corner.