Christmas, we are informed, comes but once a year. But does it, though? I'd say it's been about three months since the last one, possibly less. The only date that seems to roll around faster usually involves pulling an all-nighter to get the tax return in. Yet here it is again, fouling up the air with its tinsel and its jingly music. If there were some way of typing "Ho, ho, ho!" to give it a mirthless, sardonic ring, that's what I would do, not just in this column but also at the bottom of every e-mail I send out for the next week. "Happy holidays!" Repulsive.
I wonder if, in the cavalcade of naffness that the season now entails, there might be some obscure trace of the Medieval Feast of Fools. The tradition was stamped out by a series of royal and church decrees in the 15th and 16th century because of its associations with excess and impropriety. The idea was that some peasant or low person would, in the spirit of seasonal high jinks, be appointed the Lord of Misrule and preside over festive anarchy.
When considering those Christmas rituals that do endure - the eating of turkey, driest and most unpleasant of white meats, the playing of Jona Lewie's Stop the Cavalry and repeats of Home Alone - it's tempting to think that the spirit of folly survives. Who can deny the perversity in Christmas cheer, with its bad films and awful music, nauseating decorations and bullying refusal of dissent? For a couple of weeks the tyranny of taste is overthrown, the world is turned upside-down and it becomes socially acceptable to wear red and green at the same time. Not in Cultural Calendar's world, though. No, here's one place where aesthetic discretion never sleeps, where judgment sits in his rightful throne, in his tower, surrounded by trenches and razor wire. Setting the hounds on carolers. No door-stepping - read the sign.
With these caveats in mind, I recommend that you try Turkey this week. Not the bird - that's always going to be disappointing - but a couple of fascinating exhibitions. At the Cuadro gallery, there is what is billed as the biggest collection of Turkish contemporary art ever to be exhibited in the Gulf. Haluk Akakçe is one of the most recognisable names among the 20 or so artists whose work is included in the show, and his futuristic abstract videos are the least Christmassy thing I can imagine.
Over at Green Art Gallery, the Turkish photographer Nazif Topçuoglu has a show called Consolation, a series of highly staged shots of young girls arranged into allegorical poses. There's a commercial glossiness to Topçuoglu's work, but his range of reference is deeper and more literary than the fashion-plate sheen might indicate: there are nods to Proust and Lewis Carroll in his scenes, and the textures and lighting suggest an ironic twist on Renaissance sacred art. Well worth a look.
Meanwhile, at the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre on Wednesday, there's a heroically unseasonal screening of John Huston's The Night of the Iguana, an adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play of the same name. It stars Richard Burton as a defrocked Episcopalian minister turned Mexican tour guide who must battle guilt, madness and a busload of Baptist women. The title sounds metaphorical in a Nathanael West, Day of the Locust sort of way, but don't be deterred: this baby packs some serious iguana.
Finally there is, for those who insist on it, panto. The Madinat Theatre is staging Sleeping Beauty - rather a suspicious example of the genre, if you ask me, having more to do with the Disney film than with 19th-century Covent Garden (I welcome correction on this point). Nevertheless, as a delivery mechanism for broad comedy and a bit of basic audience interaction, it will suffice. Merry Christmas, one and all. Ho, ho, ho.