x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

'Tis the season for gifts and treats and party frocks

Teens love getting into the Christmas spirit, until they have to fork out money to buy people presents.

We may not be having a white Christmas here in Dubai, but the festive spirit is impossible to miss. We have even - surprise, surprise - had some precipitation in the form of heavy showers of rain, the best substitute we are going to get for a winter wonderland. A soggy morning may seem like a nuisance to people in most other countries, but we in the sandpit know how to appreciate life's blessings when they are hard to come by.

Teens love getting into the Christmas spirit, as long as you take out the bits where you have to fork out money to buy people presents. We do like the getting presents bit, and the excuse to splurge on pretty dresses. It's easy to convince ourselves they'll get worn to all the parties we're invited to, even if I tend to grossly overestimate the number of parties I'll get invited to. After all, Christmas is a time of giving and charity, which begins at home; I always feel charitably inclined towards myself during the festive season.

In a consumerist world, it'd be a shame to leave out those making the most effort to get us in a good mood: the stores filled with wintry displays in the shopping malls. It seems to be the season to be jolly for stores such as Claire's and Accessorize, at least; school is crawling with girls sporting Christmas-themed earrings - reindeer, stockings, bells and sprigs of holly. Shopping malls are celebrating the profit season with gigantic decorated trees, Santa kindly doing his split-personality act and being everywhere at once. The latest advertisement for John Lewis - a snowman braving raging blizzards to journey to the store to get his snow-missus a present - leaves you scrabbling for a handkerchief (preferably bought from John Lewis).

The usual competition for snobbish superiority that is such an essential part of a teenager's circle has stretched even to yuletide preparations. All it takes is a sly murmur of "Oh, thank goodness I managed to get an Advent calendar with zero-fat chocolates, I don't want to end up looking like a huge Christmas pudding!" to set everyone else off worrying about being the only person with extra pounds in January.

My school concert, Music and Mince Pies, has seen some excellent performances of about 20 different ensembles, ranging from string quartets, choirs and orchestras, in a softly lit auditorium. Parents listen in comically rapt attention, cameras poised, to their young prodigies singing numbers such as God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Much as we performers appreciate fine seasonal music, though, it's the interval we await most eagerly, where we can make a beeline for the complementary mince pies.

The days of auld lang syne may have seen teens coerced into writing lengthy cards to distant relatives, but now a Facebook status addressed to everyone solves the problem. Not that we need any to remind us it's Christmas: Mall of the Emirates' giant silver globules and Harvey Nichols' festive show windows aren't going to let us forget it any time soon. Here's hoping we've been sufficiently good this year to get a decent haul of beribboned over-packaging under the tree.

The writer is a 17-year-old student in Dubai