My First Christmas

#MyFirstChristmas is our project showing the joys and disappointments of celebrating your first Christmas season in a new country.

The Christmas wish

So when you are asking me about the first Christmas, unfortunately it was not a very nice one, it was three weeks after my arrival day.

I was in a limbo; I couldn’t believe what was going on. My mind was confused with a debate of going back home or staying in the UK, each had its own valid points.On Christmas Eve, I was all by myself and very upset. I just spent it at home, thinking of everything, thinking of my life thinking of Syria, and what is going on in my country.

I had a small candle that I lit and made a wish that I could continue my life in the UK and see my parents again. So the Christmas itself as I said was not so great, rather depressing, but the good thing is my wish got granted. I managed to see my parents again in 2015. Read Sleman’s full story. 

The shoes

My first Christmas in the UK was in 2017 when I was still in Harlow. I remember missing my family a lot, and not having any thoughts about what would happen next. A few days before Christmas, the foster key workers at Care of Essex gave me and other unaccompanied children a Primark voucher and some cash to buy ourselves some presents for Christmas. It made us very happy, because it gave us the freedom to buy whatever we wanted, I remember I went to the shopping centre and bought myself some clothes and a beautiful pair of football shoes. I really miss Harlow.

The Christmas dinner

My first Christmas in the UK was in 2019. My family and I arrived on 28 December 2018  and we had to go through so many things, and did not have a chance to understand Christmas, let alone to celebrate it that year.   

Because we do not officially celebrate in Iran, it was very exciting for me to celebrate it for the first time in my life. However, my excitement doubled when I learned we got invited to a lovely Christmas eve celebration by one of our Welsh family friends.  

It was such a beautiful day. I baked a cake; we exchanged gifts and had a nice meal together. Everyone had a lovely time, and we enjoyed each other’s company over the best meal ever.  

The Christmas gift

I went to a community centre that I was volunteering with feeding the homeless people, and I got to talk to a woman who was so excited about Christmas. I shared my story with her.  I explained to her what an asylum seeker is, what difficulties I had, why I am here, why I cannot work and why I do not feel celebrating my first Christmas at all. She did not say much just listened with sympathy.

The following week after our volunteering shift, she approached me with a red gift bag, and said Merry Christmas. I cannot even describe how happy I was. I had my first Christmas gift; I could not believe it.

In the bag there was this beautiful reindeer, a small box of Christmas candy cane, a small bag of chocolate coins (in the photo), and a beautiful candle. Read the full story. 

Winter Wonderland

The friendly aroma of December quickly overcame my feelings of being lost, scared, and confused, along with the shiny red and white gifts given to me from people I had only known for less than a week.  

All I could see were halos of bright lights, and the joyful smiles of toddlers riding  the carousel.  The delightful scent of freshly-made ginger biscuits and smooth hot chocolate took me to Winter Wonderland. 

That day, we went outside and remembered our carefree childhood, forgetting all of our sorrows, which we buried behind the snowman we had built.  

The Christmas Tree

Five years ago, due to some serious issues, I had to make a very difficult decision to leave my country.  It meant leaving my family, my children, and my grandchildren behind and stepping into the unknown world.

Last week our pastor invited all the migrant groups from the church to his very own house, just to let us set up a Christmas tree together. It was so much fun to feel involved and loved after five years. We decorated the tree together, we laughed, and played some games. And finished with tea, coffee and some lovely home baked cake. Such a lovely Christmas to remember.  

This is actually the first Christmas where,  although there is no guarantee for my asylum claim,  I already feel blessed and belonged.