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Expats tales : The Spirit of Christmas in Mauritius

Christmas time is finally here and we are all looking forward to spending memorable moments with our loved ones. Expats share with News on Sunday how they are celebrating the joyous times following their own traditions blending in at the same time some Mauritian touches. 


Ingrid Bell: “Christmas Eve is a very important home tradition and I’m known for going all out on decorating the dinner table”

ingridIngrid has been living in Mauritius for five years. MD of the company Aestetika Studio, the South African expat made the big move in 2018. “We embraced the concept of Shoshin, meaning “beginner’s mind,” a Japanese concept that helps you adopt an attitude of openness and eagerness, sans preconceptions to see the world, and learn, in a different way. To become truly innovative, one must break old thought patterns, break away from existing models and systems, and employ a beginner’s mindset. That is how Mauritius became our creative-recharge destination, enabling us to grow and expand our business in new and innovative ways,” she explains. 

Ingrid shares that she fell in love with the multi-cultural aspect of living in Mauritius. “Day one we fell in love with the multi-culture, culture of Mauritius and embraced and took part in so many of our Mauritian friend’s practices and traditions. Back home being a vegetarian was challenging and time consuming, but here in Mauritius I’m living my best vegetarian life! We are spoiled for choice, and it is so easy to fill our plates with super deliciousness.”

Speaking about Christmas celebration, our expat shares that she has many plans. “Our calendar is filled with a variety of outdoor activities, concerts, parties, and visits with friends, indulging in delicious food whilst driving across the island in search of the most idyllic public beaches and hidden gems,” she states. 

When it comes to Christmas traditions, Ingrid declares that she has a few family traditions. “We make our own Christmas crackers. Our fur babies also receive gifts, and also get to buy their parents and grandparents gifts. Our newest tradition is to repurpose gift bags. We are a big family, so there are plenty to go around. This brings great joy as we try to remember from how many years ago the bag made its first appearance, from whom, and what gift was given. Then, and this is the biggest one, is to see who can write the funniest personal message on the gift tags. This brings a lot of laughter as funny or embarrassing moments of the year always resurface on the cards. The youngest and the oldest hand out the gifts whilst Boney M plays in the background. Then, Christmas Eve is a very important home tradition and I’m known for going all out on decorating the dinner table for this all-important meal before midnight mass. Back home in Johannesburg I used to indulge in buying new ornaments etc. to suit that year’s decorating theme. Of course, now, having adopted an eco-conscious life, I only use what I have brought with me and I re-purpose using eco products. This year’s theme is all about the fragile Ocean between Mauritius and South Africa, and the message we will be sharing with all our friends and family visiting us over the holidays is, Our Shared Ocean. Our Shared Responsibility. Boxing Day is celebrated with all our friends on the island and we all bring left overs that we share for lunch whilst we picnic on the beach,” she declares. 

 Why is it important for her to follow home traditions? “Ever since moving to Mauritius we Face Time our family when we celebrate important days such as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and following our home traditions makes the distance between us feel so much less and of course it creates lots of fun, laughter, and new memories of being together, albeit virtually,” she affirms. 

Ingrid happily shares that she and her family have also blended in some Mauritian cultural aspects to the celebration. “We have embraced the cultural significance of the oil lamp, enlightenment, prosperity, knowledge, and wisdom. Also, eating special delicacies and a wide variety of vegetarian dishes found on the island has opened our palettes to so many flavours we never associated Christmas with, like paneer tikka on the barbeque with black dal, pani puri, halwa, kulfi ice cream, and unique Chinese cakes from Mr Chu in Port Louis.”

The best part about celebrating Christmas in Mauritius according to the South African expat is that is the summer season. “Christmas in Mauritius is such a joyful time with vibrant flamboyant trees and petals everywhere. The best part is having to find every possible space in the fridge to stack cut watermelon, mangoes and especially lychees, they can fit anywhere, so you can nibble on them throughout our very hot summer days,” she utters. 

Ingrid’s wishes peace for this Christmas. “To cherish peace and goodwill is the true spirit of Christmas and never had I wished for peace and goodwill on earth as today! What I most looking forward is starting my Masters in 2024.”

Olga Anthony: “Every year we create a new Christmas tree from different materials, like driftwood, paper, crates”

olgaArtist and art teacher, Olga is originally from St Petersburg, Russia. The expat has been living in Mauritius for eleven years. She shares that she decided to settle on the island following both professional and personal reasons. “It was work and then love. I met an interesting person during my first visit in Mauritius. We decided to work together and after one year we felt like it would be great to be together in life. Now we have a daughter who is eight years old,” she shares. 

The Russian expat confides that it was not easy for her to adapt to the Mauritian lifestyle since she used to live in a big city back then. “We have museums, theatres, concerts, beautiful architecture. My husband likes art and music. The majority of his friends belong to artistic professions. So, he tried his best to help me with adaptation on the island. I discovered many talented local singers and artists during these years. I’ve collected pretty good library; this is what I used to have at my parents’ place. I cook a lot of Russian dishes, convinced my husband to drink tea with lemon and not milk, taught him some Russian words and learned creole myself.”

Speaking about Christmas celebration, Olga does not hide that she misses the white Xmas. “As a Nordic person I miss the snow and all the joyous activities related to it. But I found my way to compensate this with a lot of art classes with kids on winter themes. I think nobody in Mauritius is painting so much snow than us,” she utters. When it comes to home traditions, the Russian woman declares that she follows some special ones. “Of course, we decorate\ the Christmas tree. But since there is no the real one, every year we create a new one from different materials, like driftwood, paper, crates among others. In Russia we have the New Year celebration before orthodox church Christmas and it is the main celebration. We begin to celebrate at 11pm on the 31st of December with the farewell to the outgoing year. At midnight we always drink champagne and the late dinner continues till 2am to 3am. All gifts we usually receive in the morning of 1st January. Every Russian will tell you that the best thing to have for the first breakfast of a new year is the Olivier and the herring salads from the last night.” She does not fail to underlines that she has also adopted some Mauritian way of celebrating the new year festivities. “Every year for the New Year celebration we are going to the beach to watch fireworks,” she declares. 

Olga asserts that it is vital to pass down traditions to kids. “I guess many of us feel comfortable with our own culture and things we know from our childhood. Obviously, you want your kids to have it as well. My daughter speaks fluent Russian. When she will visit my motherland, she will recognize many things we are talking about and it will surely bring her joy.” What is the best part about celebrating Christmas in Mauritius? “No need to put on those hats, boots, jackets. You just grab your ‘savatte dodo’ (flip flops) and head to the beach with champagne.”

She wishes lots of positive things for the new year. “For my personal wish, I will keep it a secret, or else it will not come true. I hope next year will bring us only good things, exciting travelling, interesting discoveries, great events and many happy moments.” 

Iuliia Voloshyna d’Argent: “We are going to church and then having dinner all together”

luliiaAll the way from Kiev, Ukraine, Iuliia Voloshyna d’Argent came to Mauritius in 2010 for work and never went back as she found her true love on the island. “I came to Mauritius in 2010 as company I previously worked in the USA opened branch in Mauritius. So, I came to train Mauritian employees and end up meeting my future husband. Love motived me to settled down here. So, I decided to extend my occupation permit for longer and eventually we build a beautiful family together. Now I am director at the same company, part time model and I have my YouTube channel where I take interviews of inspiring Mauritians and I have a daughter of 4 years old,” she shares.
The Ukrainian expat is proud to call Mauritius her home. “After living in Mauritius for 13 years, I feel that this is my home. I work with Mauritians, live among them and some of my very best friends are Mauritians. I am very grateful to be here and how island keeps welcoming me every day,” she utters. 

This year, Iuliia and her family are celebrating Christmas like every year with their family. “Traditionally on 24th December we celebrate with my husband parents, brothers and sisters and children. We are going to church and then having dinner all together. When midnight strikes, we all exchange gifts and keep celebrating. On 25th December we gather for a big family lunch with all the aunts, uncles and cousins. We are all looking forward to this day to spend time together.” What about her home traditions? “We decorate Christmas tree in the beginning of December with my husband and my daughter. We put Christmas songs and write a letter to Santa Claus with gifts list. I must say since we have our daughter, we are trying to add more traditions to make it memorable for her like we decorate ginger bread house together. She also has an advent calendar that she opened every day or sometimes few in one day,” she declares. 

According to the Ukrainian woman, it is important for her to follow some home traditions as it strengthens togetherness. “It brings a certain magic and most importantly it brings us all together and strengthen our bonds.” Iuliia adds that she also adds some Mauritian touches to the celebrations. “December month is all about celebration and spending time with the ones you love. And the best part about celebrating in Mauritius is that it is warm and you can jump in the pool after Christmas dinner. Honestly, I can’t imagine Christmas any other way now. I love seeing Flamboyant trees flourish and when the lychee season starts, I know best time is coming,” she states. 

Iuliia wishes for all sufferings to end this Christmas and that next year brings more joy. “I really hope that peace will finally come in all the countries suffering at the moment. As for me I am very grateful for what I have now and I learn to live everyday one step at a time. We learn from any situation, just need to take it with love and acceptance.”

Daniela Guimaraes: “We always follow our Christian traditions when we make our thanksgivings for all the blessings we received during the year”

danielaOriginally from Brazil, Daniel is in Mauritius for four years now. He came for a work assignment by Club Med as Director of Operations, Indian Ocean. This forms part of the expatriation policy that the company adopts to give an international exposure to its employees all over the world. I arrived in Mauritius before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic after 22 years of service for the hotel group,” he explains. 

The expat settled on the island with his wife Daniela and their two sons. “I must say that I already knew quite a bit about Mauritius before coming here as I worked with many Mauritians colleagues who are posted in Club Med resorts around the world. My wife and sons were curious to discover this wonderful country which is renowned for its sense of welcome and the warmth of its people.” 

The couple did not have much difficulty in blending in the Mauritian society and lifestyle. “Coming from Brazil, we arrived in a country that has the atmosphere and character. Here as at home, the hospitality is legendary, the people are most welcoming, and the food is so exotic and attractive. So, adapting to the Mauritian lifestyle was not really a problem but on the contrary, it was a quite an easy process,” he states. 

The Brazilian family plan to enjoy Christmas time together. “It is always a family festival for us. This is time for enjoying the family and friends while sharing some succulent meals. It is also a moment to reflect on our achievements and our aspirations. We usually spend these festive periods in a relaxed but strongly bonded manner,” says the wife, Daniela. For Daniel, Christmas time is also a time to celebrate with his colleagues. “For me it will also be a festive reunion with all my fellow workers at the resort and enjoy the legendary atmosphere Mauritius offers to so many visitors at this time of the year.”

When it comes to traditions, the family’s priority is to keep the Christian traditions alive. “We always follow our Christian traditions when we make our thanksgivings for all the blessings we received during the year. And of course, the traditional Santa Claus and the Christmas tree will add to this warm atmosphere. I make sure that our sons follow the very long tradition of Christmas even if we are far away from our homeland,” utters Daniela. The expat underlines that family togetherness is essential in Brazil. “Just as we do in Brazil, we favour the family reunion and the joy that it brings to every member. This time of the year is a reminder that the best moments are only possible with our loved ones around us. I am sad that Daniel’s parents and mine are not here to celebrate but we are in close contact every day and we are in continuous communion with each other.”

On his side, Daniel declares that he truly enjoys celebrating the festivities in Mauritius. “I have the privilege to savour these festive moments both at work and at home. I enjoy welcoming the families of my colleagues at the resorts and share the joy of Christmas with them in the true Mauritian tradition. I have also the happiness to join my wife and my sons after to live that family rejoicing in private,” she says. The best part about celebrating Christmas on an island for the couple is the good food and good atmosphere. “These days are simply dazzling with good food, nice drinks, warming sunshine and above all, the blessing to be in good health and be able to share with others. I make the most of my two sons and we go shopping. This is the magic of the festive seasons: bringing people together for celebrations,” utters Daniela.

The Brazilian woman wishes for more kindness in the world and global peace. “My earnest Christmas wish is for joy and warmth to fill every heart. In the coming year, I wish more positive thinking, accrued collective resilience, and increased kindness worldwide. May challenges be met with strength, and may the spirit of unity prevail, bringing hope and progress for all. I strongly hope for global peace, hoping that nations can resolve conflicts diplomatically. Economically, I wish for stability, growth, and reduced inequality. In 2024, I wish a safer and more prosperous world for everyone.”


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