Peacekeepers celebrate in Lebanon
Christmas in Lebanon will be much quieter than spending it in Blenheim with his parents, says a United Nations peacekeeper from Marlborough.
Major Hayden Ricketts says he will miss his mother's cooking, but he, his wife and 1-year-old twin sons will do their best to create the spirit of Christmas in the predominantly Muslim country.
His parents, early childhood teacher Lyn Ricketts and Mayfield Motors mechanic Phill Ricketts, still live in Blenheim.
He has put up a Christmas tree in his family's apartment and will be marking the occasion with other United Nations families.
"It will be a normal working day for us because Christmas is not observed here. But we will get together in the evening for a few drinks and a special meal."
The New Zealand Defence Force and Returned Services' Association sent them a care package filled with Griffin's biscuits, Allens lollies, and an Ernest Adams' Christmas cake for a taste of home, he said.
Major Ricketts, 33, has been in the army since he left Marlborough Boys' College in 1998.
He met his wife Kate on a training exercise while based with the 1st Battalion in Palmerston North.
He flew to Lebanon in January and is serving as a United Nations military observer, supervising the armistice between Lebanon and Israel based on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.
Mrs Ricketts joined him six months later with their twins, Ben and Harry. They live in an apartment with other United Nations families in Tyre, Lebanon, which is 25 kilometres north of the Israeli border and 90 minutes south of Beirut.
About 50 United Nations military observers are based in Tyre and they have grown to be quite a close multinational unit with families from Australia, Europe, China and Argentina, he said.
While there are no parks to kick a ball around, there is a beautiful beach nearby that is perfect to cool off at in summer, when temperatures reach an oppressive 42 degrees Celsius.
However, it was coming into winter, which brings rain and cooler weather, so they were more inclined to hang out at cafes or go out for a meal, he said.
He was looking forward to returning to New Zealand in January and catching up with family. When he returns, he will be based at Burnham Military Camp, south of Christchurch, where he will take on the role of a company commander in the 2nd 1st Battalion.
The Marlborough Express