The Trouble with Christmas Trees

There has been a fierce debate in Qatar recently over the lack of decorations for the Eid al Adha holiday – one of the holiest periods in the Islamic calender as everyone reflects on the lesson of Ibrahim and Ishmael – but there seem to be wall to wall decorations for Christmas in all the hotels and malls. Along the corniche there are triangle shaped lights waiting to be lit up for national day on Friday, December 18th. Unfortunately these triangles resemble Christmas trees.

An angry editorial to the newspaper explains that while Switzerland has banned minarets as outward structures, Qatar promotes Christmas.

I was neutral on this debate since growing up as a non-Christian in the U.S. I often felt forgotten by Santa, the world wide jolly giver who somehow always missed our apartment.

Then I walked into one of the five star hotels and saw for myself what must be shocking to some Qataris or other Arabs: a nine foot (maybe even taller) Christmas tree extending to the ceiling with presents wrapped underneath in wrappers that said “Happy Christmas” (what the British or Europeans say).

For me, even now as an adult convert to Christianity, the tree was slightly gratuitous. Right in front, right when you walk in the door. Lovely, yes. Gorgeous, even, sure. The hotel’s parent company is Canadian. But could it have been placed ten feet inside the entrance instead of four? Could it be to one side instead of in the center?

Is this a symbol of Qatar’s tolerance or example of how Muslims are being crowded out of the public sphere?

It has been raining here for two days straight and a continued deluge may dampen the excitement of the annual parade on the day of nationality, solidarity, and honor.

I just hope that when they light those triangles they aren’t red and green.

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