It's Yuletide season again. This will be my 12th Christmas away from home, and my 11th consecutive Christmas in Saudi Arabia. The first time I celebrated Christmas here in the Kingdom was in 1999 in Riyadh. It was December 23rd when I arrived, 2 days before Christmas, so I think you could almost imagine what was going on in my mind, and what I'm feeling during that time.
There I was, a Filipino Christian, alone in a Muslim country which is synonymous to stern strictness on almost everything you can imagine, so Christmas is almost non-existent, (I said "almost" because even though I'm in a Muslim country, there are also a huge Christian population here, and Filipinos make up the huge percentage of that). And because of some Filipino co-workers who welcomed me to the company, my fears and sadness had been eased a little, even for just a moment.
I remember during that Christmas eve, I was still working from 8 PM up until 2 AM, because the Yuletide season then coincided with Ramadan, and you can't imagine how tired I was. I didn't even have the energy to celebrate it with some of my friends, I just ate my dinner and then went to bed. So sad.
My Christmas celebration this year will be a different one, although the loneliness is still there because I'm still not celebrating it with my loved ones. In a way, I've gotten used to it through the years, but not totally. I'll just call my children back home and greet them Merry Christmas. This is the season when I miss them the most.
There are just two Filipinos in our company, and we are living in the same apartment. We've been through all this Christmas thing many times before, and we'll get through this again. We've already gone to the supermarket this afternoon, and bought the ingredients for the Pancit Guisado that we will cook for our Nochebuena on Christmas eve. Delicious!
While driving to the supermarket, we were listening to Christmas songs by The Jackson 5, Mariah Carey and The Carpenters. Wow!, it really brought back a lot of memories, especially Jackson 5 when they sing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and "Give Love On Christmas Day", I loved that feeling!
For now I want to say, Merry Christmas to all, especially to all OFWs around the world. I leave you with a quote from Calvin Coolidge,
“Christmas is not a time nor a season,
but a state of mind.
To cherish peace and goodwill,
to be plenteous in mercy,
is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
* The photo above was our living room, taken a year ago. I still live in that very same apartment.