What It’s Like To Celebrate Christmas In Saudi Arabia?

I missed my beloved country, the Philippines. I could not explain enough how colorful there the Christmas is. We had the longest holiday season on the planet. Many started celebrating Christmas from the first day of September up to the first Sunday of January, which is the epiphany, also known as the day of the three kings.

Every part of the country has their own ways of celebrating. Every night, some people forget just for the season to be conservative in their electrical power consumption with their Christmas lights. For some, this is the time again to take out all those Christmas decorations — Christmas balls, Christmas lanterns, beléns (usually a mini version of the birth of Jesus, with statues, the manger, and hut), Santa stuffed toys or just anything that could remind us that Christmas is coming. The air is filled with Christmas songs from choirs, local carols, TV  and radio stations or maybe just from yourself who can’t help but sing as the effect of the last song syndrome.

I have never been to other Christian dominated countries. But, from the stories I got from my other relatives who were also in abroad, they say that Christmas in the Philippines was the best. Maybe because, well, they missed where they came from. Or, maybe it is just is — the best Christmas in the world.

So as the rest of the most part of the world, I’m also anticipating the coming of the twenty-fifth of December. This time not with the glamor, but more with simplicity and meaning.

Photo Credit: Damien Pobel via 500px  ccPhoto Credit: Damien Pobel via 500px cc

Just From My Own Story

Everyone has their own views and opinions. So as experiences. Now, I’m in a computer shop, just a part of a building. In a small street in a big city which is still a small part of this country, I’m in now — Saudi Arabia. I could not represent the whole of the Filipino community who work here. Somehow, I could only tell my own experience which I believe not so different from the many Overseas Filipino Workers, worldly known as OFWs. Given that I’m only in my seventy-ninth day of stay, I got so much to learn. Much coping needed, especially in the celebration of Christmas.

This is just from how I see things here. I hope you’ll find this interesting enough.

Struggles From My Own Ego, Laziness, and Confusions

For almost a month, I have been reading standards and procedures in the office prior to my job interview. I was in the office with my fellow Filipino engineer and an Indian guy. Then one day, both of them have to go so I was left alone.

This is both bad and good news for me.

Bad, because even if I’m not quite a talker, I still longed for some conversation from time-to-time. I had no one to talk to.

The good news though is that I can do anything freely given that the desktop computer was not occupied anymore. So I browse the internet forgetting what my real intentions were. I post on Facebook for people to know I’m fine, that I still exist. I got this assumption that I should admit, that the world would end if I don’t open my Facebook account in a day. This is my cure for my depleting ego and homesickness. I’m still a social being. I need connections, even virtual connections. Or I just need to learn much in life.

My conscience is bothering me, so I promised myself to not browse the internet for non-work related things anymore. Reading textbooks format pdfs bored me to death. I know I should be motivated knowing that this will improve my career as an engineer. I fall asleep unintentionally a lot of times. I walk around, do some stretching and made myself cups of tea just to keep myself awake.

There were many times, though I go back home satisfied knowing that I did my best. I could not ignore the fact that twice, I cried silently in the office out of extreme loneliness. I came to doubt myself if I can continue on doing this even if all I had to do is to read stuffs.

Everything Would Be Fine

To make my long story short, I was hired at a new company in Jubail. This is another great opportunity for me. But, there were still some documents issues that I think my company should deal first. I’m just at the mercy of my company. Yep, it’s quite frustrating to have no control of many things. This gave me more reason to hold on to my faith — that there is really the One who had control of the universe.

I’d been to Jubail thrice in a span of a week. Now, I’m back to Khobar. The drive would only just take two hours maximum. This is far better than my roommates who traveled days for their work.

I believed everything would work out just fine. As it is always.

Just Link and Not Real Connections

“Just because it’s important to you, it doesn’t mean that it’s important to your audience. Focus on the latter and not the former.” ~Seth Godin

I got this from one of my heroes, Seth Godin from one of his talks. I felt like I was slightly slapped on my face. I suddenly realized how little I really know in terms of connections.

Due to not blogging to focus on studying my upcoming work (which quite works for me), the longevity of not posting on this blog tells me something else. I realized I had a long way to go in terms of connecting with my readers. Just a few, but I’m not with the numbers. At least for now.

From all my blog posts, I had these self-beliefs that I’m making good connections with my readers. Yah, maybe ego issues again. I’m just making links actually. After you read my blog post, now what? Maybe you’re just entertained a bit.

I would not stop on making blog posts, though. I trust that my slow-learning brain could finally get the true meaning of making connections. Just like the quote above, I must learn to do something more important to you, my reader.

So, What It Is Like to Celebrate Christmas in Saudi Arabia?

“The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God. He has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light,” ~Pope Francis

At nine degrees centigrade, my Christmas morning was literally cold. I was in Jubail.

Then in the afternoon, my company brings me back to Khobar. I spend many hours of my Christmas on the road staring at the window of a car. Not much to see at first, but a vast land of almost empty desert. More than an hour later, I’m starting to see more concrete buildings which tell me that I’m just hundreds of meters away to my destination.

The weariness from cold temperature and the travel somehow swept away after seeing again my Filipino comrades. I’m not the life-of-the-party type of person, but I believe these countrymen helped me ease my loneliness. I love talking to them about our lives, dreams or just anything under the Arabian sun.

They made some desserts. I called the day “Merrycaroni Christmas” because macaroni salad is the only food I ate during this holiday eve. I was already full from the road trip, that’s another story, though. I called my mom on the phone after.

Just like the distance of Saudi Arabia and the Philippines, the difference of how Christmas was celebrated between the two is way too far to compare.

Looking for the true meaning of Christmas, this is the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Whether it is true or not if the twenty-fifth day of December was really the day of Christmas doesn’t matter. What’s really important is the world at least once a year became more at peace. Why is that? I believed it’s because Jesus is the Prince of Peace!

I know it’s late, but I greet you anyway — have a peaceful Christmas!

This is a timely greeting — Have a peaceful and prosperous 2015 to you, my beloved reader. May the message of Christmas bless your life this coming year. 🙂


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