Christmas in Qatar is just not the same at Christmas at home, regardless of where home is! It’s hard to create a Christmassy atmosphere in a Muslim country, with a desert climate, albeit winter here now, so the temperatures have plummeted right down to 25c, brrrrr.
The question in Doha is ‘Where are you spending Christmas?’ those that stay love to complain about the lack of atmosphere despite the fact that they can’t be bothered to even cook dinner, as most order in full Christmas lunch, delivered to the door from a hotel, leaving even more time to complain while quaffing cheap wine. To escape the hollowness of Christmas tree lighting in five star hotels, many people return home where, this year the focus is on the elderly, aging, those living alone and the homeless. Rightly so too, Christmas is lonely time of year for a lot of elderly people living alone without family to spend it with and the message is, surround those who feel lonely or isolated with warm wishes and kind gestures.
This Christmas, there is one group that my heart goes out to most. It’s those in the autumn of their years, who contact their family abroad via Skype, Facebook and email, they love looking at cute pictures and video clips of the grandkids all year round and enjoy all their little milestones, from afar, and just when they are looking forward to the festive season the devastating news breaks, Declan, Sinead and the four kids are all coming home for Christmas to nanny and grandad, formerly known as John and Noreen.
This year will not be the same for John and Noreen. There will be no Christmas Eve drinks in the golf club with friends, there will be no giggles after a few hot toddies with the rest of the choir at midnight mass, there will be no morning bucks fizz round at Tom and Bernie’s, (a tradition they’ve enjoyed since the kids finally moved out), there will be no nap after Christmas dinner and no nipping to the local which opens to locals for a hour on Christmas evening. This year, Noreen will spend all Christmas in the kitchen, listening to her son, Declan, banging on about free range organic turkeys and watching her daughter-in-law Sinead pushing cranberry infused quinoa around her plate, afraid to have a spud in case it would put some flesh on her bony arse. Noreen will have to cater for her four fussy-eating grandchildren, their parents never correct them and the final straw she no longer had the use of her own iPad, the kids have commandeered it! She dreams of quiet hours on her white Laura Ashley sofa sipping crispy cool white wine and playing candy crush.
Long after the kids have gotten bored and retreated to the good sitting room with Noreen’s iPad, John will continue to sit for hours trying to figure out intricate Lego sets. He would rather be enjoying a nice fat Cuban cigar and a large brandy in the comfort of the home which he had paid off when he was fifty. To make matters worse he’ll have to listen to Declan talking about the inflated salaries and his Range Rover in Doha when at 42, he’s home with four kids and driving his mother’s car for the holidays.
Through snatched conversations (in the utility room, they no longer have a living area to call their own) John and Noreen talk about just when will Declan consider himself an adult and find his own accommodation when he visits home, or will he indeed consider himself a kid in their house forever? They feel they have no way out.
So this Christmas spare and thought for people like John and Noreen and home or abroad, have a very Happy Christmas