Friday, January 11, 2008

Silent Night in Saudi Arabia

Silent Night

Christmas is a noisy holiday and a Christmas night is anything but silent. The only silent night was probably that of the original Christmas Eve. Since then, most Christmases have been uproarious celebrations.
In the US Christmas preparations start after Thanksgiving, and Christmas carols begin reverberating throughout the country at that time saying to us- “it is December, what have you done with your life this year?” In Catholic countries, the advent of the Holiday Season starts even earlier and you hear Jingle Bells or their local equivalent starting as far ahead as late September. For three months thereafter you are reminded every day of the fact that the year is almost over, the year is coming to an end. And you then ask yourself: What have I accomplished? Have I achieved that I had set out to do?
No matter how hard I have been working, I always feel frustrated- I feel that this Christmas, someone is having a better time than me, is with a better family with more money, or with a new girlfriend, a new job, and is now sitting somewhere at a Christmas table with a big smile on his face while I stand there holding a bag with nothing going for me. I am the only one who has accomplished very little, a loser, someone who, during this holiday season, will only be counting losses and dreams that have not been realized.
A few days after a clamorous and depressing Christmas, the New Year celebrations begin. Crowds cheering, ushering the prosperous new 2000 something-something again, but I am again sitting here sucking on my thumb and wondering “what have I done?”.
Enter Saudi Arabia. One of the very few countries where public celebrations of Christmas are not allowed. There are no carols, no trees, no” magic”, no Santa. And no New Year celebrations, either. No crowds cheering and chanting. No giant balls falling down. Just silence. No reminders that I have not attained anything- well, actually I have- I have saved more money during a year in Saudi Arabia that I did in a decade of Christmases in other places.
Restaurants are quiet and empty on the New Years’ Eve because their calendar is not Gregorian, December 31st is not in any way special to them. NO people waiting for the clock to strike 12 midnight.
Western employees are usually allowed to take the Christmas and the New Year days off, but they not celebrate those days in a noisy and rambunctious fashion, or even let anyone know that they are celebrating it, lest they offend the locals.
So, one invites some friends to a buffet at a local hotel, the dining room is empty, no one is having a good time except us and the city is dead silent. I am the only one throwing a party and I feel great. Christmas in Saudi Arabia is a tranquil and silent night.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great blog! I want more truthful insights. You haven't been writing for a while now; what's up with that?