The Nutcracker and my two Swiss Misses

When I was packing for our stint in Abu Dhabi, I decided that we did not need to bring any holiday decorations with us. We limited our luggage to a few outfits each, children’s books, and our kitchen knives, so there was no room for decorations and they could have broken on transit and I figured I could just get crafty with the kids for each holiday and that, most importantly, I could endure three years without my precious decorations (primarily Christmas ornaments) knowing that I would return to them afterward.

But then Christmas started to near. Part of me was a little depressed, because it was so un-Christmas-like outside the window. No snow, no neighborhoods trying to out-Christmas light each other, no all Christmas-music radio station, no holiday movies or specials on tv (but that could be just because we don’t watch tv here). And then the photos on Facebook started. It was mostly the photos of Christmas trees that did me in. I LOVE Christmas trees. I especially love my family’s Christmas trees, which are so covered with ornaments that you can’t see any greenery.


To illustrate my point, here is a pic of this year’s tree that I stole off my sister’s Facebook wall

To remedy the little bit of sadness (it really wasn’t very serious), I did get to crafting with Adele and May (the curtain of paper snowflakes I made is still hanging over our living room window), I planned to host a few parties, and I looked for events that were happening in the city that would make me feel festive.

One of the events I read about was the Nutcracker performed by the Moscow City Ballet at the Emirates Palace. I knew Adele would love it, especially since the Emirates Palace – which is dripping in gold – would make it seem all the more important and mature.


We did a special shopping excursion to pick out a new dress for the ballet. I kinda pushed this on her, because HELLO LEOPARD PRINT and because I had seen it before and loved it, but this time it was on sale!

We went along with Lisé and made a night of it by taking Adele out to dinner at Jones the Grocer afterwards with our other friends Monica and Jon. It is a very rare and very special occasion when I can spend time alone with my big girl. It was a lovely night, but I was afraid that my camera wouldn’t be allowed, so I left it at home. Alas, I have only these two phone pics of the evening.

In the lobby of the Emirates Palace (apparently in 2011, this Christmas tree broke the record for most expensive tree in the world!)

In the lobby of the Emirates Palace (apparently in 2011, this Christmas tree broke the record for most expensive tree in the world!)

I have many, many more pictures of one of the other special events we attended to get in the festive spirit. Monica posted on Facebook that there was going to be a Swiss Christmas Market downtown. Then Christina (who is from the Zurich area) said that she was actually going to be volunteering there, reading children’s stories. So of course we all had to go to heckle Christina! Sadly, she was fired (not true), so we didn’t get the pleasure of hearing her read, but we did run into her and Jojo and Lulu there and we still had a good time walking around and seeing all the booths of crafts.


The first thing we did was romp in the faux snow:


Adele was excited at first (that girl LOVES snow), whereas May was much more skeptical. After a while, Adele decided it was maybe not the most fun in the world to be covered in soap suds. But I certainly enjoyed the spectacle.

Next we went to decorate gingerbread men:



We were one of the last families at the table before they ran out of supplies. Score! The girls were so proud of their little men, but when we tried to eat them, we all practically lost a tooth. They were rock hard. May was the most intrepid in her attempt to devour that gingerbread man. She gummed him as best she could, but he would not yield to her bite. Dried icing is still tasty, though.

You may have noticed the girls’ outfits. We decided to run with the Swiss-German theme and pull the dirndls out:


Actually, Adele’s old dirndl only fits May now, but the blue vest she’s wearing was part of a folk costume I thrifted a while ago. (And yes – spoiler alert – both girls got new dirndls for Christmas.)

There was a band flown in from Germany (or maybe Austra? or maybe Switzerland?) for the market. They whipped out their Alpenhorn to the delight of the crowd:


Seriously – look at those groupies!

The “instruments” that I thought were pretty cool were these simple ceramic bowls into which they dropped coins and swirled them around. They sang along to the resonance.


Adele was less enthused than I:


But eventually, I got the girls to dance:


And then they got embarrassed and needed a hug:


The booths at the market were different than what I was expecting. I’m used to lots of food stands and kitschy Bavarian knock-offs at these faux Christkindl-markets, but the stands here sold mostly local crafts. It was not wintry, but I liked it that way. It seemed a more authentically Abu Dhabi take on the idea.

The booths (or huts, really) curved along this tiny, shallow river, which was stocked with koi:


Adele and May liked watching them swim back and forth.


You gotta love the juxtaposition of the Alpine huts bedecked with Christmas lights and faux snow with this very tropical, almost Asian landscaping

As you know from a previous blog post, we went onto the beach behind the market for an impromptu photo shoot. I’ve already posted the cutest pictures, but here’s one extra:


It was so hard for her to resist jumping in the water! (And thank goodness we always make Adele wear shorts under her dresses and skirts.)

We ended the night with Monica at Brauhaus, which is the German restaurant in the hotel where this event was held. We went all out and got fondue as an appetizer:


Here’s Adele’s take on the whole thing:


I think she was just pissed, because the waiter kept forgetting to bring her a crayon to color in the kid’s menu. The service was absolutely ATROCIOUS there – which is a rarity in Abu Dhabi – but the food was quite tasty.




Adele was kind enough to butter her sister’s bread for her. There were three different kinds of butter to choose from! Heaven.

It was a fun way to increase the girls’ excitement for our real Bavarian Christmas (and a good way for us to gauge how well they would handle walking around the markets).

A couple of the other ways we celebrated the Festive Season (that’s what it’s “officially” called here) will follow soon!



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