The 8th of December

Being brought up a good Catholic girl, living in Abu Dhabi where some of the most important days in the Church calendar of the year pass by un-marked, it can be difficult to maintain ones stance. Church Holidays, Feast Days, Fast Days, Holy Days of Obligation, all still grace the calendar but without the aplomb that they might command in Ireland. It would seem that without the influence of the masses, my once regular religious practice falls more than a little short of the good Catholic girl I once was. So far this year I am ashamed to admit that I have failed to attend mass on Palm Sunday, I also failed to honor the Feast of the Assumption and I broke Lent.
So now coming up to the Christmas spell I’ve decided to pick up on my religious duties, get back on the horse so to speak, so I popped open my Irish diary to see when the next Church related day of significance. Bingo! I was right on time for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the 8th of December. The perfect time to rejuvenate my dormant traditions, I would emerge at mass on Christmas Sunday, reborn, the congregation would rejoice. Wanting to celebrate the day in a traditional Irish Catholic sense I Googled, “8th December Ireland” keying the words in my chosen search engine, google.ie, Google, because it’s the fastest and .ie, because I like to view the world both offline and online through Irish eyes. I vowed to follow the tradition to the letter, no matter what guidelines the search recommended, feast, fast or sacrifice, I was ready. I was back in the world of the Irish Catholic Church and from now on I would be dedicated.
The results populated the page and I was delighted to read that the 8th of December is the unofficial start of Christmas and generally recognized as the biggest shopping day of the year. As I read the words, I did begin to vaguely recall this fact and firmly deny that my re-birth was timed to coincide with same. Bit by bit the memories came flooding back from thirty to three years ago. The Christmas lights would be up on Oliver Plunkett Street and Patrick’s Street. The lifesize nativity crib would be up and the donation box would flicker sporadically as a gentle reminder of what Christmas was all about, giving. Santy’s, Reindeers and Snowmen would adorn every window, each one looking more inviting than the next. The atmosphere used to be palpable as all the people up from the country, made their way to the city for the big shop of the year. In later years, Christmas markets popped up with organic foods, handmade crafts and other indigenous goods. Strolling around the magical wonderland sipping a tall organic hot chocolate, one didn’t mind being ripped off or duped into excessive shopping, it was all part of Christmas and the 8th of December was the gateway.
So on 7th December, I decided to take a sneak preview of what Christmas shopping in Abu Dhabi would be like. I gingerly walked around Abu Dhabi Mall, one of the bigger shopping malls, it was early morning and quiet, I first suspected that maybe this was the quiet before the feverish frenzy that would emerge tomorrow. On further observation it would seem however that there would be no such frenzy, not a Santy, a crib or a tacky string of tinsel in sight, I left the mall, shoulders slouched and weary.
Here I was ready to re-join the party only to find out the party wasn’t here in the Middle East. I would try to source some decorations somewhere and make what we could of Christmas abroad and tomorrow I would spend all I had in an apt act of support for Christmas in Ireland. I scanned the aisles at Carrefour looking for a Christmas decorations, thinking it was as likely as finding an Abaya in Dunnes Stores. Until lo and behold, it glistened before me, a full aisle dedicated to Christmas, to be true to tradition I mentally noted the items I wanted but I would wait until tomorrow to purchase. I would pull into the massive empty car park at 8.30, I should jostle and huff and puff like I couldn’t get past the greedy crowds, I would snatch baubles and advent calendars from the shelves as if I was surrounded and I would stock up on tins of Roses like they were going out of fashion, Abu Dhabi or Cork, the 8th December will remain the same.

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One thought on “The 8th of December

  1. Pingback: Happy Christmas « HX Report

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