Expat Life, Family
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Working on our Christmas Tradition

Welcome to the December #TrailingSpouseStories blog crawl!
This December, we talk about the much anticipated and somehow dreaded, ultra sentimental Christmas holidays. How were the Christmas holidays outside your home country?  How is it similar and different?  What did you enjoy most spending Christmas abroad?
Find out how we spend our holidays and how it feels to spend it in different corners of the globe, so don’t forget to read more stories of fellow trailing spouses at the end of this blog post.

We have spent 4 Christmas’ here in Dubai, and I can say that we are getting better at making our own traditions each year.

I initially thought that we won’t feel Christmas’ festivity here, since we are living in a Muslim country – I was wrong. Almost all establishments have decorations that would definitely put one in a holiday cheer.


This year was supposed to be our first Christmas as an expat family but we decided to go home for the holidays.


We were invited to a small gathering of Filipino families from my husband’s company, they have become our dearest friends (like a family) here in Dubai. Christmas morning, we heard mass.


Few days before Christmas day, we had a party with all the Filipino family from my husband’s company. I prepared a simple dinner at home and we watched a holiday themed movie. Christmas morning, we went to hear mass.


Introduced Advent calendar this year and hope that I’ll be able to make one every year.

We spent almost 3 hours in line to have our family photo taken with Santa at Wafi Mall.

A potluck Christmas party dinner at our friends house – watching movies and playing games kept us busy while we wait for 12 midnight, to finally open our gifts. Christmas day we heard mass.


Hohoho! 1 hour waiting time to have our family photo with Santa at Wafi Mall.

Prepared 2 kinds of Advent calendar for the kids and they also choose 1 ornament each for our tree. Dad started a Christmas village collection.

Together with Dad’s office team we had a Christmas eve party. Dad prepared “minute to win it” inspired games to keep us busy. I baked cheesecake and chocolate cake for the party. Christmas morning, we heard mass.

This year, 2014.

Looking back, it was only last 2012 that we started a family tradition – advent calendar and a family photo with Santa Claus.

I’d like to continue doing the advent calendar for the kids but less on them getting material gifts. We will once again do the story of Nativity, it is something that we can do together before bedtime. I’m going to ask relatives and friends to contribute as well.

Simbang Gabi. We still haven’t completed 9 nights as a family because of the logistics of me wanting the kids to complete at least 8 hours of sleep and my eldest son needs to wake up really early for school. Mass here in Dubai starts on December 15 at 8 pm, and finishes around 11 pm. It looks like we have a chance to complete this year, last day of school scheduled on December 18. I still believe that when you attended 9 masses, your wish will come true.

Growing up in the Philippines, I have always looked forward to Simbang Gabi treats – bibingka, puto bungbong, suman and sikwate (hot chocolate) – this is not widely available here in Dubai, you can get it in some Filipino stores but not freshly cooked steaming hot kakanin. I will definitely add puto bigas, bibingka and sikwate (though not made from tablea) to our noche buena spread.

My husband grew up opening gifts on Christmas morning. My side of the family stay up entertaining ourselves with card games, patintero at night and watching movies while we wait for 12 midnight to greet each other a Merry Christmas and finally to open our gifts.  So far we have been staying up till the clock strikes 12 and they get to open gifts before breakfast.

What Christmas traditions have you been doing with your family?


Read more about fellow #TrailingSpouseStories at:
  • Didi’s story on D for Delicious  on how Christmas abroad start out tearful, but after some time, it turns tearless
  • Yuliya’s story on Tiny Expats on their journey and experience of winter holidays in 6 countries along the way.
  • Abigail’s story on Cuddles & Crumbs on a look back on what we have been doing on Christmas and slowly working on our family traditions.
  • Tala’s story on Tala Ocampo on how the Ocampo’s spent their first Christmas abroad in Colombo, Sri Lanka celebrating not only Christ’s birth but also the birth of their daughter Luna.
  • Marie’s story on laughlovepractive on how times change, Christmas celebrations change. But one thing keeps it the same.
  • Glendale’s story on G’s Kandy Krush on how she is celebrating my first Christmas in Sri Lanka, where she resides with her husband and 2 sons.
  • Third’s story on Pinoy in America on how Pinoys have successfully brought the Philippines’ best-loved Christmas customs and traditions to America.
  • Marc’s story on Fatherland, explaining how Christmas is different this year compared to past Christmases.
  • Jenny’s story on My Mommyology on how Christmas in Manila or in the US is different every year with the kids.  Or is it the same?”
  • Kristine’s story on Tala Ocampo where Mac shares her reflections with Tala on spending Christmas away from home for a total of 15 years”


This entry was posted in: Expat Life, Family


Hi, my name is Abigail a stay at home Mama of two LittleOnes and currently residing in Dubai, UAE since 2009. This is my little space online where I share activities, places we've been, food we enjoy and snippets of our daily expat life. ‘Cuddles and Crumbs’ is a combination of the two main things I share on this blog: cuddles (family) and crumbs (food).


  1. Pingback: #TrailingSpouseStories: Christmas “Firsts” | My Mommyology

  2. Wow Simbang Gabi away from Manila! Galing. Good luck this year with completing it! 🙂 And I hope you don’t have to wait another hour in line for Santa this year! 😉

  3. That is one of the most I am thankful for when I was in the UAE; the openness to practice other religions. Do you go to St. Mary’s? In UAE though, Simbang Gabi is literally in the evening, right? And then, you have the midnight mass on the eve.

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