My first Christmas in this part of the world was in 2002 and I felt like an orphan at that time because I was wondering where and to whom I would celebrate this occasion. I come from a country that celebrates exaggeratedly the Festive Season. In fact, Christmas commences as soon as the ‘beer’ month starts. We always refer the months in the last quarter of the year as ‘beer month’ simply because these months end in ‘ber’.
Anyway, as early as September, you can already see Christmas decors and lights in the streets, at homes and occasionally in the malls. By November the Christmas decorations are fully set-up as December is already considered quite late. Then it is marked with ‘Misa de Gallo’ or sometimes known as midnight or rooster’s mass because it starts at four o’clock in the chilly morning of December. It commences every 16th of December and culminates on the eve of Christmas. It is a total of nine days mass celebration in the Roman Catholic Church, a unique tradition in my home country.
Then like in any part of the world, there is the rush gift shopping for family and friends, and the busy atmosphere in the kitchen for the ‘noche buena’, the dinner on the eve of Christmas.
Indeed back home the celebration of Christmas is much anticipated and it is marked with the mood of joy and festivity.
Of course, this scenario is expectedly to be poles apart here. Christmas is still celebrated here and the government of UAE has been very kind to allow such open celebration considering that this is a Muslim country. Generally the hotels host various activities all throughout the festive season. The events stretch from the classic Christmas caroling, Christmas tree lightings, Christmas brunch & dinner and Christmas parties.
Companies which are managed by Western origins generally host Christmas parties for there staff and 25th December is holiday for them. However, for organizations particularly the big ones with staff of diverse origins and cultures, Christmas day means another ordinary working day only. Sometimes the bosses allow Christian staff to leave the office earlier to be able to celebrate Christmas. Others ensure that Christians are scheduled or prioritized for off day on Christmas day.
It is really a give and take relationship among the staff because the same arrangement happens during Muslims holidays.
Anyway for those, who are in shoestring budget and cannot afford to celebrate Christmas in the hotels, typically organize a small gathering at home with their friends. Sometimes when there is no venue to host the party, it is then celebrated in the park or at the beach.
Christmas celebration here is quite simple but still I am personally grateful that we are able to celebrate and carry out our traditions despite of the religious difference among the expats and the host country.
Whatever plans you have for the festive season, I wish each one of you a Merry Christmas!