I’m struggling to get in the festive spirit. With only 11 days to go, my Christmas holiday remains, as yet, unbooked, presents remain unbought and, because we are worried that our dog might eat all the baubles and do herself some serious harm, the Christmas tree remains firmly entrenched in the store room. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, I’m just not really feeling it this year. Maybe it’s the weather – still much too mild, even for the UAE; or the fact that I haven’t been out and about much in the last few weeks, so haven’t had a chance to experience the festive decorations engulfing hotel lobbies or the cheesy Christmas covers being blared out in the nation’s many malls.
So, this weekend, the plan is to try to inject some Christmas spirit into my current Grinch-like existence. I’m sharing my simple, foolproof plan, in case you, too, are having trouble getting in the holiday mood.
Turn on the festive tunes: I'll be dusting off my Now That's What I Call Merry Christmas compilation CD as a first step in Operation Get Festive. To be played on repeat are my top five Christmas tunes: Band Aid's Do They Know it's Christmas? (to be clear, that's the original 1984 Bono/George Michael/Sting/Boy George version, not the feeble 2.0 and 3.0 versions); Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas Is You; Chris Rea's Driving Home for Christmas, which appeals to the serial commuter in me; East 17's Stay Another Day, which some will say doesn't count as a Christmas song, but I don't care; and George Michael's Last Christmas. If you notice a George Michael theme here, I'll remind you that I grew up in Cyprus and that the late Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou is one of the country's most famous exports (him, and halloumi cheese).
When it comes to Christmas songs, the purists out there might prefer some Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole, but a bit of Wham! generally does the trick for me. To extend the theme, throw on a Christmas movie – Home Alone or Love Actually are favourites in my household.
Don't leave present buying until the last minute: This year, only buy presents for people that you genuinely care about – and take the time to get them something that's actually thoughtful. Panic buying in an overflowing mall on December 23 is never going to yield effective results, so take some time to really think about your gifts this year. In an age when mindful consumption is being encouraged, it is unfair to give your loved ones things that they won't like or need, and might dispose of immediately. Many of the people we know and love will already have plenty of stuff, so why not try to gift them experiences that you can do together, or items with a highly personalised touch.
Make your house smell like Christmas: Scents can trigger strong emotions, so remind yourself of Christmases past by infusing your home with festive aromas. Bed, Bath & Beyond's Cinnamon Spice & Pumpkin candle is a great place to start. For a more labour intensive but effective solution, create a Christmas potpourri by placing things like cinnamon, oranges, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and vanilla in a big pot of water and letting it simmer on the cooker throughout the day. Add water as needed – unless you want to add burnt oranges to your catalogue of Christmas smells. Enhance the whole experience by making yourself a nice cup of hot chocolate.
Go out and do one really Christmassy thing: Try ice skating at The Dubai Mall; go for a meal at Apres in the Kempinski Mall of the Emirates and convince yourself that Ski Dubai is actually the Swiss Alps; go out on a night on the town wearing a silly festive hat; head to work in a hideous jumper; chat with Santa at one of the many Christmas markets around the country; share a packet of mince pies with some colleagues – whatever it is, force yourself to do one really cheesy Christmassy thing this week.
Remind yourself what it's really all about: We all know that Christmas has become shrouded in consumerism and gluttony, but try to remind yourself what it really stands for. Time spent with family and loved ones, heartfelt acts of generosity and an opportunity to take stock of how lucky we are. If you really want to get in the Christmas spirit, that's a good place to start.
Read more of Selina's thoughts: