We arrived at post in October of last year, and our belongings arrived just before Christmas. We had stocked up on some Xmas essentials before we left the states, but there is always room for more, especially when you’re in a non-Christmas country. There’s no Christmas station, no overwhelming store displays and constant sales-pushing here. Of course, that means finding Christmas items can be difficult. But… not impossible!
In 2011, I’ve already seen Christmas gear at 4 places in the expat area of Dhaka.
Folk International (Near the Gulshan 2 Cricket field) began it’s Christmas item season on October 1st, and they’ll sell it until it runs out. As the season progresses, they’ll have fewer items. There a great source of ornaments, especially painted papier mache and laquer ones. They also have tree skirts and fabulous quilted wall hangings. (I saw one in someone’s house last year and was terribly jealous of it, who knew they’d bought it right here in Dhaka?). They also have some glittering table mats and runners to jazz up your holiday table. I saw them in red, green and blue, but they were almost out of the blue. They also sell gift bags in all sizes, from teeny jewelry bags to giant bags (about 30” and round) that look like Santa’s sack. There are also UNICEF cards here.
Sally Ann’s (Lane 6, House 365/2, Baridhara DOHS), a fair-trade branch of the Salvation Army’s retail mission, usually carries a lot of baskets, embroidered goods, napkin rings, and (strangely) wooden letters that you’d paint and hang in a nursery. For the next few months, they’ve also got a bunch of Christmas items. Last night, I saw Christmas trees made out of yarn, shiny wire or fabric. They also had three different kinds of wall-hanging advent calendars, one with large pockets to hide treats, ornaments or notes, one with little loops for ornaments. They also had a bunch of embroidered items (including tree skirts, tablecloths, napkins, etc.) with holly or other Christmas themes. Their tree skirts were made for table-top trees. They also had an impressive array of embroidered and sewn ornaments. (On a side note, if you’re looking for children’s furniture, they have some cute basket/wood dressers and cheerful table and chairs sets that they’ll sell off the floor or do custom for you.) They also sell coffee and waffles, but I’ve never had one.
Carlotta House, a convent in Bashundara, spends all year embroidering elegant tablecloths and accessories to sell for the holidays (they also make altar cloths and fancy work for churches in Europe). You can call them up and make an appointment to view their little shop, or find them at the DAWC’s Christmas Bazaar, usually held in November at the American School.
DIT 1, the sorta-mall, sorta-open air market, just southwest of Gulshan 1 circle is also a Boro Din (Christmas in Bangla, the local language) paradise. You can find 6 foot tall plastic, light-up Santas, strings of 220v fairy-lights (aka Christmas lights), cheesy trees made out of tinsel, actual tinsel, and everything else tacky you can imagine. It’s also a great place to buy cheap toys, and disposable dollar-store-esque items. They’ll also be very excited to see you. Unlike the others mentioned, DIT is all about bartering, no fixed prices.
Last, all the embassies, clubs, and service organizations hold holiday fairs. The DAWC’s is the largest. In 2010 it was held at the American school, on the field. Last year it was an incredibly hot day, but there were vendors of all sorts there. They sold clothing (kurtas, salwar kameez, childrens ruffle-cake dresses, giftable items), PEBBLE products, pearls, ornaments, holiday cards, gift bags, art (rickshaw, fine and folk), embroidered items, scarves, jewelry, vintage ship-salvage, brass, wooden chests… you name it. Bring a LOT of cash. There are food vendors, raffles and music acts to keep you entertained and nourished while you browse. The clubs also had smaller fairs, each with a good mix of stuff, including some that didn’t make it to the DAWC fair.