Growing up in Australia we celebrated Christmas, not because we were a religious family but because it was culturally important.   Giving and receiving presents on a Christmas morning and a family feast for Christmas day were traditional in our family. My Grandmother, from England, still cooks fruit pudding containing real silver coins for desert with hot custard, hot turkey and all the trimmings. Of course that kind of food is ideal for a snowing cold English Christmas, but not so appropriate for an Australian Summer Christmas where temperatures regularly reached 40c or more.

To add to our physical discomfort we had no air conditioning and my mum cooked on a wood fire which further heated our whole house to a sweltering oven. Of course that doesn’t stop us from following tradition and we do the same thing every year, although now we have the bonus of air conditioning.

As a child, I loved the magic of Santa or “Father Christmas”, as we called him in our family. Santa was smart and always gave us what we needed, mainly clothes with one fun thing like a toy. I can’t recall when I learned the truth behind Santa but it was a seamless progression into maturity and it didn’t send me to seek psychological therapy. I love to see children rapt by the magic of the Season and have continued the tradition with my own family.

I respect everyone’s Religious beliefs and enjoy celebrating faith with people from all over the globe. I acknowledge these beliefs, but for me, Christmas will always be a time about family. A time for dropping whatever daily demands occupy us, coming together in love and sharing a meal and swapping presents. As our family has grown with grandchildren and great grandchildren, for my Mother and she is now 78, we have taken on the cooking duties and introduced presents for the children and a hand-made gift from adult to adult. As only a few of us are spectacularly crafty, this has made for some hilarious moments.

It’s that time of the year when most children are ordering gifts from Santa and parents. While that is typical, please teach your children that giving is more important than receiving. That is the real theme for Christmas. We need to stress to our children at an early age that the real meaning of any holiday is love. They can make something or do a favor as a gift. Let the child give it to the recipient so they can see a happy response from that person. This will teach them the joy of giving, especially as toddlers.

Giving your time is more important than anything else. Open a door for someone, deliver some food, or if you can afford it, secretly pay for someone’s meal. Giving is such a great and happy feeling. Remember children learn from our actions more than our words.

Our six year old daughter doesn’t hanker for gifts, she doesn’t even write a letter to Santa asking for anything. She told me she knows she’ll always be given something but eating together as an extended family and talking about when we were children is her greatest joy. That she says is her greatest gift for Christmas, the gift of family.

So as we make plans, like many expatriates, to leave Bahrain for Christmas, spare a thought for those that cannot spend Christmas with their families. Consider those that may go hungry on Christmas day, like most other days of the year. Consider giving the gift of food to those in need or a warm coat as winter arrives in Bahrain. There are many local charities who work tirelessly throughout the year to provide to those less fortunate. People can also contact me directly if you wish to donate. Season’s greetings to all and may the true spirit of your Christmas be love, like each and every day of the year.

Michelle Bailey
Coach and Director EMEA Business Development