Dubai: It is the time to cheer, celebrate and make merry. It is Christmas! And we are celebrating it inside a Dubai billionaire’s mansion.
We were invited to join in on the Christmas celebrations at the home of John Paul Alukkas – Executive Director, Joyalukkas Group and his wife Sonia Alukkas, also a director in the firm.
John's father Joy Alukkas, often called the man with the Midas touch, runs the global jewellery chain – Joyalukkas Group.
John is actively involved in the family business and has earned a name for himself, spearheading the growth of the company which currently enjoys an annual turnover of over $2 billion with a presence in UAE and 10 other countries.
Joy Alukkas started the first Joyalukkas showroom in 1956, in Thrissur, Kerala. Alukkas dropped out of college to join the family jewellery business at the time. In 1987, he entered the UAE market by opening his first outlet in Abu Dhabi. Today the group has become a household name for many.
The couple [John and Sonia] belong to the state of Kerala.
In Kerala, Christmas celebrations have an influence of Syrian and Western Christians. Christians living here add local flavours to their tradition, preparing exotic delicacies to keep the celebrations going. Preparation for Christmas begins from the beginning of December; Sonia said they started even earlier. Fruit cakes are exchanged throughout the month with family and friends.
History of Christianity in India
It is believed Christianity came to India in 52 AD when St Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus visited Kerala. He preached about Jesus in Kerala and it is said a large number of people chose to become followers of Christian faith. It is over the time that Christmas celebration became the part of Kerala.
Duration of the festival
“Christmas is usually celebrated for a day. But the celebration begins from the fourth Sunday before the Christmas which is also known as the First Advent Sunday. On Christmas Eve we attend the Mass with family and friends. On Christmas Day we will be celebrating with John’s family and mine. From breakfast to dinner we will all be together celebrating with the family,” explained Sonia.
As we drive into the development Mohammad Bin Rashid City (MBR) City, the couple’s corner five-bedroom villa is visible at a distance. The villa looks all decked up, keeping in line with the festive spirit. Warm lights adorn the exterior and interior of the villa.
It is almost as if the couple are announcing more than just the news of Christmas. They are in their dream home, one they [the couple John and Sonia] put together.
The couple with their kids moved into their new home mid-September just in time to start preparations for Christmas, so they could host their first party in the house.
“All elements in the house were looked at by John and me,” gushes Sonia.
“We hand-picked everything, from the tiles, the lights, the wall paint, the carpets, lamps, curtains, paintings or the 500 petunias adorning our garden area. For the last eight to nine months, it seems like we have done an entire crash course in interior architecture.
“For example, we have 500 petunias in our garden,” she adds.
“It is our dream home and we love it here.”
Sonia and John’s house is in district 1. “One of the best things about district 1 is that there is an 8km long lagoon nearby. It is simply gorgeous. There is a cycling track nearby and we are blessed with some good neighbours,” said Sonia who commissioned her friend Tania Karam, an interior designer, to do up her villa.
“When the villa was handed to us, John and I knew exactly how we wanted our house to look and how every corner of the room had to be utilised. As an example, the kitchen built in the villa was fairly small. And so we extended it as we spend a lot of time here in the day.”
The couple created a Siematic kitchen with Miele appliances using Dekton stone as countertop. Additionally, the majlis area of the house has been converted into a man cave. “This is the place where John entertains his friends, watches his favourite Manchester United football game. This is the place where we have an air-hockey table as well.”
One of the things that catches our eye when we enter the house is a massive cross and another massive Last Supper painting next to the dining table. “We commissioned an artist to recreate an image of the Last Supper which you would see in churches as a glass work. We asked him to recreate this image on a canvass. It is on our favourite spots in the house.”
Sonia and John Alukkas' new villa in Mohammed Bin Rashid (MBR) City all festive for Christmas View gallery as list
Even as we get talking about the house – we cannot help notice the house all decked up for Christmas.
Elves, a fully decked up Christmas tree, a glowing landscaped garden with lights all give us enough and good feel of the festive spirit.
Tis the season to celebrate and we could not be in a better place for this.
Another eye-catching feature in the house is the Nordic wooden floor adorning the entire villa. “Even our kitchen is done up in the wooden flooring. You will not normally see a wooden flooring in the kitchen of an Indian household. But John and I decided to go for it. Our help ensures the floor is kept tidy despite our little girls Michelle and Hazel running around everywhere with food in their hands,” said Sonia.
“The idea of the wooden flooring was to have the house nice and cosy,” she added.
Christmas day was all about family time. "We have been in and out of family dos. I truly think Christmas binds the family together," says Sonia. Which is why it was so important to her that this house was ready in time – not just as a place to live but also as a place in which family can just be together, enjoy the happy times.
"John's family and my family have spent Christmas Eve and Christmas together. It feels really festive. There were many gifts exchanged between the families," says Sonia.
Good cheer: check, happy family: check. House made home: Check.