Holiday Celebrations as an Expat

Holiday Celebrations as an Expat

Enriching and memorable experiences while getting an understanding of the culture in strange lands. Here is my experience with holiday celebrations as an expat.

Holiday celebrations bring so many memories to most of us. As per the Cambridge English Dictionary, it is “an official day when you do not have to go to work or school”. And the number of public holidays throughout the year varies from country to country. On top of the ranking is Iran with 27 paid public holidays. My home country, Colombia, comes in third place with 18 paid public holidays, and Norway has the lowest in the world with only 2 paid public holidays.

Safari Birthday Celebration in Kenya by Tatiana Moreno
Safari Birthday Celebration in Kenya
By Tatiana Moreno

Holiday Celebrations Back Home

That being said, I am used to celebrating pretty much everything, when there is a holiday. Back home in Colombia, we call it “Puente”, and when it arrives, you know it’s time for a road trip or for more activity and festivities during the weekend. Everyone is always in a great mood. Not to mention that I have kept a tradition for some years to always travel on my birthday. It will be interesting to see what I come up with this year as a celebration during the pandemic.

Therefore, I am sure all of you know how to celebrate the holidays in your country of origin. However, when we become an expat, and even though this might not be a detrimental factor to choose one country from the other, it’s definitely an extraordinary way to experience the culture.

Wearing an abaya by Tatiana Moreno
Wearing an abaya
By Tatiana Moreno

Holiday Celebrations in Dubai

For instance, when I lived in Dubai, one of the most significant holidays happen around the Holy Month of “Ramadan” which goes as per the Muslim calendar. It changes year by year, so you don’t know exactly when it will fall as it depends on the sighting of the moon. So, planning is always last minute, unless you plan in advance and arrange it with your employer. This is in case Ramadan doesn’t fall during the days you requested and add them to your planned holiday for a longer vacation.

To experience the culture, the entire month of holiday celebrations is very special to me. The city literally transforms, during the day the pace is slow, and it becomes very active at night until the end of “Suhoor”. That's one of the main meals throughout Ramadan; a pre-dawn meal that you have before starting the fasting. You should stop eating approximately 10 minutes before the first prayer of the day.

And then there is “Iftar”, another holiday celebrations meal. You break the fast at sunset. As an expat living in Dubai, you do not have to fast, but you may not eat in public spaces during fasting hours. Most restaurants remain open but cover their facades to keep serving expats or those who are not fasting. You cannot walk around with food or water in your hand, or you will be fined. That is to show respect to those who are fasting. By law, everyone, whether Muslim or not, works two hours less but gets paid the full salary. It is also the month of giving, so there are many events taking place, discounts in most stores, raffles, etc. Everyone is in great spirit, and the city feels so vibrant and lit up at night.

Iftar by Tatiana Moreno
Iftar
By Tatiana Moreno
Visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi  by Tatiana Moreno
Visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi
By Tatiana Moreno

After living 5 years in Dubai, I experienced the Holy Month of Ramadan differently each year, and in 2016, I decided to fast as well, so that I would not end up over-eating by having my own meals plus sharing Iftar and Suhoor with my Muslim friends. It also helped me to get a better understanding of the culture, such as the reason behind fasting, which is to feel what the underprivileged people suffering from hunger feel, and I must say it, was a very enriching and memorable experience.

I am truly passionate about traveling & getting immersed in other cultures because you are constantly learning. It can be a language, traditions, habits, food, and so on. It is always an adventure and a beautiful journey.

Are you looking to have your holiday celebrations abroad, too? Share your thoughts and customs with us.

by: Tatiana Moreno

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