Today I received the good news that some of my Christmas cards made it to their European destinations. I am sooo pleased. The cards were cute; pictures of camels with red santa hats lounging in the sand, UAE landmarks, Christmas trees planted in the dunes, and all with the general message of ‘Happy Christmas’. I don’t think I saw one card or Christmas decoration with anything other than ‘Happy/Merry Christmas’ inscribed on them.
The Dubai malls look like something out of a Hollywood Christmas movie: ceiling tall Christmas trees decorated to designer perfection, tinsel expertly draped from from bannisters and balconies, windows dressed in winter wonderland scenes and nodding snowmen smiling their ‘Mona Lisa’ smile as you walk on by. In shops Christmas carols are played on loop, leaving you with the feeling of that one carol being ‘stuck in your head’ by the time you reach the other end of the mall. Dubai even has its own snow park where Mr and Mrs Claus hang out with the penguins until Christmas eve! As with every other festival, most Dubaians soak up the Christmas cheer and spirit with gusto.
Dubai’s population is 2 million. Of that, approx. 170,000 are Emirati; the rest are foreigners. Over 2oo nationalities, which encompass most of the world’s religions, call Dubai home.
Dubai’s make-up allows us to experience and enjoy all the major celebrations of the world’s cultures. This year DS2’s class received beautiful diyas (lights) from a classmate for Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. We remember ANZAC day, we wear poppies in November, we acknowledge St. Patrick’s day, July 4th, Canada day, Thanksgiving (both of them), Hallow’een. We honour Ramadan and join in Iftars. Of course, we mark Eid celebrations and acknowledge the colourful harvesting parties celebrated by South Asians. Although all of Dubai may not celebrate all of these occasions, the key is that we have the option to do so if we wish (and all without offending anyone else!).
When it comes to UAE National Day, flags are flown from cars, in fact some cars are fully decorated with the national colours of red, green, white and black. Faces are painted, parades are staged, giant flags are draped from the top floors of houses whilst flagpoles stand tall above a nation, ensuring their flags billow with elegant reverence to the country’s founders. Dubaians love nothing more than to celebrate, and National Day is the perfect day to come together to honour our freedom to celebrate.
This is what I love about Dubai. From day 1 my children have been immersed in the ‘melting pot’ that is Dubai. Their school alone has 40+ nationalities. They play together, celebrate together and become friends; no barriers, and more importantly, no questions other than curiosity about culture. Countries that traditionally have been, or are still at war with each other put aside their differences. The parents bond, and revel in the magic that is just kids being kids.
I moved from a country that felt it offensive to say ‘Happy Christmas’, that felt it offensive to wear a ‘cross’ as a piece of jewellery – all out of fear of ostracising non-christians, (yet which which put particular emphasis on acknowledging and marking non-christian celebrations)…….and, here I am in a muslim country wishing every nationality ‘Happy Christmas’ (and receiving a positive response), and wearing jewellery with Christian symbols, only to be greeted with ‘that is very pretty’, no matter what belief.
From a region that has been accused of being intolerant of other cultures, beliefs, and nationalities, I believe there is a lesson to be learned by those countries who try ‘oh so hard‘ to be politically correct (for votes, and that is all it amounts to at the end of the day), but whose policies and actions only serve to deepen divisions by continually pointing out the differences.