Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

The Great Debate: when is it appropriate to start celebrating Christmas?

One Christmas-mad Dubai resident argues the earlier the better, while another says not a minute before December 1

Mariah Carey posted about Christmas straight after Halloween. AP 
Mariah Carey posted about Christmas straight after Halloween. AP 

Every week, we find two people with opposing (or at least different) views on a topic to discuss the day's big (and small) issues. This week, we're asking two Christmas-mad Dubai residents when it's time to start celebrating the festive season.

Katy Gillett: For me this is really simple – the celebration of Christmas can commence on December 1 and not a minute before.

Ellie Keene: My question is, why though? It’s the most wonderful time of the year (Andy Williams song, just so you know!).

KG: But, if we continue to start celebrating earlier and earlier, it won’t be the “most wonderful time of the year” any more, because we’ll be overdoing it. The time of the year Mr Williams was referring to begins from December 1.

EK: I don’t recall the song saying so? The run-up to Christmas is the best part: the songs, tree, festive lights and parties. Christmas Day tends to be a bit of a letdown in my opinion, so I prefer to keep the pre-Christmas spirit alive longer …

Listen to the full song here:

KG: So when can festivities start, in your opinion?

EK: After Halloween …

KG: Why then, specifically?

EK: It’s when the shops start selling all the festive stuff, when the nights get darker earlier, and the weather changes. I had a party on November 2 to put my tree up and ate festive food and played Christmas tunes. People obviously thought I was a little mad, however, they all loved it!

KG: I mean, you’re not alone on this. In the UK, shops start selling Christmas-themed stuff from August (I’ve seen it myself). I’ve been told that in the Philippines, many Christians start celebrating as soon as the months end with “ber” (so, as early as September!). Here’s why I don’t subscribe to this school of thought: because a) I think it’s even more special when we have to wait; b) December 1 marks the first day of advent for Christians, which technically marks the “preparation for the commemoration of the birth of Jesus”; and c) December 1 is my birthday, so it’s a double whammy, and I’ve always gotten an advent calendar as a present every year.

EK: I actually do understand it more for people who have their birthdays in December. And the reason I think I put my tree up so early is because I am not here for the whole month, so I want to enjoy it longer. I’m not going to lie, though, I’ve only recently switched the tree lights on and left the curtains open, because I am aware it’s early and didn’t want anyone to see. I just love it so much! I think having two nephews back home helps – it keeps the magic alive a little more.

KG: I mean, I think you should keep your curtains closed …

EK: Your new nickname is going to be

Katy Grinch-ett!

KG: Surely we could argue that by keeping Christmas confined to December only and not “diluting” it, I’m actually making the festive season even more special. And therefore, I am not a Grinch …

EK: We may have to agree to disagree here. Christmas makes people happy and gives us that warm feeling, so if it means people are happier a little earlier in the year then I am completely OK with it. I think it’s different for people living away from home, too. In the UAE, it’s sunny during winter, so it doesn’t feel Christmassy.

KG: I grew up in Bahrain, so, for me, weaker sunshine is actually pretty Christmassy. But it never was for my mum, who grew up in the UK. She actually closed the curtains and turned the air conditioning right down on Christmas Day every year we were in the Gulf, so she could pretend it was cold outside! We didn’t have TV fireplaces back then, but if we had one, you better believe she’d have put it on. But, now I might contradict myself, because when we didn’t go to the UK for Christmas, we’d celebrate with friends and family during summer instead. We’d have what we called a “summer Christmas” and, to this day, it’s one of my favourite traditions (although we haven’t done that since I was a child).

Profile shot of Ellie Keene, Dubai PR
Ellie Keene put her tree up this year at the beginning of November.

EK: See, there you are! You secretly love it. I can tell you’re aching to get home and put up the tree tonight. Also, my tree is very pretty and I am all about staying home as much as possible at the moment, and it gives my living room a little glow. It’s also an excuse to eat more chocolate, so I am going with it. I do think I put the tree up this year mainly because I am travelling back home so early, so want to enjoy it as much as possible. But I have been listening to Christmas music since October – please don’t hate me …

KG: It really does ultimately boil down to my birthday for me, rather than anything more moralistic. It’s tradition for us to put up the tree and start decorating on that day. I usually wear my PJs all day and whip out the Christmas tunes for the first time that year. It’s lovely. It doesn’t hurt that my birthday also coincides with the UAE’s National Day holiday!

EK: I feel sorry for the people who celebrate their birthdays afterwards. My mum’s is January 8 and it’s the worst time!

KG: For sure, I’ve known people whose birthdays are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, even New Year’s Eve! They make it work, though …

EK: So I guess my only real argument is that there’s not really anyone in charge of saying when we can start celebrating it. It’s different for Americans, because they have Thanksgiving, but for us Brits, there’s nothing in between Halloween and Christmas to get excited about (other than Guy Fawkes Night and no one seems to do that any more!). So I say, why not get that tree up early?

KG: Each to their own. In some cultures, the big feast and present-opening day is December 24, in others it’s December 25, while Orthodox Christmas is in January. Of course, many of our non-Christian UAE friends don’t celebrate Christmas at all.

So, Ms Keene, if you want to create your own culture of post-Halloween festivities, then you do you, my friend. As long as you’re not harming anyone around you, it can’t hurt.

EK: See, you’re coming round to the idea.

KG: I guess I’ll survive.

EK: Did you see Mariah Carey’s Instagram post at 12.01am on Friday, November 1? She did a video in her Halloween costume and then once it got to midnight, her song came on and Santa called her to say “it’s time!”. So, if Mariah says it’s Christmas, it’s Christmas!

Updated: November 21, 2019 10:56 AM

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