This is the first Christmas in America for the grandchildren of Ada residents Grayfeather and Bev Salyer. (Ada Herald/LeAnn Pryor)
This is the first Christmas in America for the grandchildren of Ada residents Grayfeather and Bev Salyer. (Ada Herald/LeAnn Pryor)
ADA - Christmas in America is a beautiful thing! The twinkling lights and colorful ribbons, the jingle of bells, the sweet smells of cookies, cinnamon, and evergreen, and in our part of the country, the brisk air and snowflakes are all are part of our heritage. Every year we experience the wonder of the Christmas Season, but it is expected. It is an annual addition to past memories.
Imagine, if you will, not having this as part of your background and experiencing Christmas for the very first time! This was the unique situation found in the home of Grayfeather and Bev Salyer. Their daughter, Danielle Dalton, a 1993 Ada Alum, was introduced by her brother Brian to his Ohio Northern University classmate, Yosef Alakraf. Danielle and Yosef were married in 2000 and moved to Alakraf's home country of the United Arab Emirates. They have been blessed with four children; Ebrahim, 11, Fatma, 9, Amna, 6, and Alia, 4.

The family lives in the bustling city of Dubai, which has received much public attention in the last few years. Dubai has become one of the most multicultural trading centers in the world with accolades of having the largest man-made peninsula which happens to be in the shape of a palm tree and largest shopping mall, the tallest building which was featured in the latest Mission Impossible movie "Ghost Protocol" and a reputation for over-the-top glitz and glamour. According to Ebrahim, the temperature there goes from being warm to "hot enough to fry an egg!" and is landscaped with palm trees and desert sand just outside of the city. A far cry from Ada, Ohio!

The family is not unfamiliar with Ada, having spent most summers with the Salyers, and greatly enjoys the slow, easy pace. But this year is their first visit to the United States during Christmas time! Little Alia sticks pretty close to mom but takes in the stunning displays with wide brown eyes. When Fatma first came into the Salyer's home, she exclaimed with clever humor, "Grandma! That's the biggest... and first...Christmas tree I've ever seen!" Amna was pleasantly surprised when she found out the candy canes that decorated the family tree were real! Not plastic! And Ebrahim, having learned much about Christmas from school and pictures, was taken a-back by the "socks" hanging on the mantel which he had not known about previously.

One of their first explorations was to travel through the "Winter Wonderland" at Ada's War Memorial Park which is very dear to Grandpa. Fatma said, "It was really pretty with all of the lights! I had never seen things like that before!" Also traveling with the family is Yosef's sister, Moza Alakraft. "To actually feel and see Christmas all around is hard to explain! Very different from just seeing it in movies", she said.

Rolling, cutting, baking and decorating cookies with Aunt Beth Ann Dalton, has been another highlight. The checklist of experiences also includes shopping at a mall during the increased excitement of Christmas gift-buying, family gatherings with their four cousins, opening presents, and hopefully getting to enjoy snow for the first time before they leave after ringing in the New Year.

Thank you to the Village and residents of Ada for making this a Christmas to remember!