It is during holidays and festivals that we miss our families most. Dubai has so much to offer, but on special occasions many of us recall, however fleetingly, the celebrations of our childhood with our extended families. We would like to be able to give our own children, just as happy and solid memories to look back on. In the absence of our many relatives and the hustle and bustle of family time, many of us turn to the wealth of entertainment and the fabulous culinary choices that festive seasons have to offer in Dubai. We may try to fill the void, or create memories, seeing and doing things, enjoying excellent meals and festive delights.
Yet, often the simplest ways of trying to provide our children with a bank of really meaningful memories, that truly reflect how much they are loved are overlooked. Sometimes less is more. The best decked halls and the most brilliantly decorated occasions do not necessarily make the best memories. People and times spent together do that. And for children, especially children growing up as expatriates, that may well mean time spent with their parents and siblings.
Activities such as making and baking things together with parents make just as happy and fulfilling memories as fantastic meals in superb restaurants do.
Amongst the simplest of all is sharing a story on the sofa together. No child, or adult, of any age, is too old to sit and listen to a good story. A good story is a good story whatever the age it was intended for. Some of the best known writers can often not specify what age their intended readers should be, so absorbed are they in telling the story itself. A good story carries a message of some sort for each person reading it or listening to it; people take away different things from the story, depending on their age and level of understanding.
Even just listening to a familiar voice, telling a story, cuddled up on a sofa is a wonderful luxury. These are the memories that children can use to build their confidence and self-esteem with, nurtured by the feeling of being loved and valued.
Some families make it their tradition to collect a selection of books relating to special occasions, such as Christmas or Eid, which are only read at these times. Others build up a collection of festive-related movies, or just ones they like to watch as a family.
Below are a few suggestions to read during the winter break or ahead of Santa’s visit:
• John Burningham: Harvey Slumfenburger’s Present
• Rose Impey and Sue Porter: A Letter to Father Christmas
• Yin and Chris Soentpiet: Dear Santa, Please Come to the 19th Floor
• C Haywood and V G Ambrus: How the Reindeer Saved Santa
• Nicholas Allan: Father Christmas Needs a Wee (cheeky but fun for young ones)
• ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
• Dr Seuss: How the Grinch Stole Christmas
• JRR Tolkien: Letters from Father Christmas
• Michael Twinn: Dear Santa, Please Don’t Come This Year
• M Morpurgo and E Chichester Clarke: The Best of Times (longer)
• M Morpurgo and M Foreman: The Best Christmas in the World (set during WWI)
• Gervase Phinn: A Wayne in a Manger (cheeky but fun for older children and adults)
• Charles Dickens (abridged by Vivian French):
A Christmas Carol
• O Henry: The Gift of the Magi (for older readers)
Here are some seasonal favourite movies to view:
1. The movies made from Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman and Father Christmas
2. Elf (Will Ferrell)
3. Miracle on 34th Street
4. The Grinch (can be quite scary for the younger ones)
5. It’s a Wonderful Life (a guardian angel and a very moral story. There are many more of course, depending on your personal preferences. Select a few, then have “family movie nights” with pop-corn! Real magic!
Agnes Holly, BA English and German; MA Comparative Literature; Hornsby Dipl Special Educational Needs. Agnes has more than 25 years' teaching experience in various roles ranging from university to nursery teaching, in addition to on-going work bringing up 5 children