Monday, December 22, 2008


Christmas in Qatar does not have quite the excitement that it would in most parts of the world, not least in part because Muslims do not celebrate Christmas. Things have been changing a little bit over the time I've been here though. The Christmas displays in the malls seem to be more and more noticeable every year, from very subdued beginnings when I first arrived to nice displays in the middle of malls. Most, if not all, malls in Qatar do not do the Santa thing though. Some hotels do but by and large Santa does not make the widespread appearances that he does in Western countries leading up to the Christmas season. Combine that with the fact that it is still over 20° and it just does not feel like Christmas. I keep forgetting that it is only a few days away.

Two days ago I want to the grocery store to get some eggnog and guess what -- there wasn't any. Not because it had sold out, there just wasn't any. I don't know why I thought stores would have it, just going on autopilot I guess. I lamented the lack of a eggnog at work and a coworker recalled that two years ago a different grocery store did carry it. So last night it was out to the other grocery store (I even had a request from an American friend to pick up some for him as well if I could find it). No luck. I might just have to make some from scratch, however you do that. I'm sure there are good recipes on the internet. I wanted some so that my Qatari friends could try it as they had never even heard of eggnog before. Even many of my British co-workers had never tried it, I guess it is a very North American thing.

Another thing about Christmas in Qatar that takes a bit of getting used to is that it is not a public holiday. Thankfully my office does give us Christmas off work but for most it is just another day as usual. Case in point I was at the physiotherapist today and after I was done I went to the counter for booking my next appointment to be told that it would be on the 25th at 8am. I said "great, thanks", walked out the door, then went "wait a minute..." .

So I get to start my Christmas morning with a physiotherapy appointment! ( I guess it's a gift that keeps on giving.)

My Qatari colleagues were not that excited about having Christmas off work since of course they weren't really going to be doing anything with the day off. I joked with them noting that wouldn't it be nice to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Isa (Isa = Jesus in Arabic, according to the Qur'an Jesus was a Prophet of God as well) since most Muslims celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed? They knew I was joking of course, while most Muslim countries have a day set aside to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammed, Wahhabist-Islam nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia do not. My understanding is that under the form of Islam practised in Qatar and Saudi Arabia while they revere the Prophet they are careful not to revere him to such an extent that it could be seen as almost worshipping him, so having a holiday just for him would somehow detract from the proper focus on Allah. At least I think that is why they do not have birthday celebrations for him.

Oh well so it looks like the 25th will be an unusual Christmas Day for me. I am attending a late Christmas lunch/dinner at a friend's house so the day will not be a total wash. And I get to eat turkey. And maybe eggnog.

If I do not post before then have a Merry Christmas everyone!


Magnus said...

A belated Merry Christmas, Glen

Karen C said...

Hi Glen,
Another belated Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year with all the best to you for 2009.

Glen McKay said...

Thanks guys, and best wishes for the New Year from me as well.