A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Decking the Halls: its Christmas-time in the city

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 2, 2007

Between Friday and Saturday, something changed in Hamra. All around the neighborhood, little shop elves put up Christmas decorations throughout their stores.

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From the gym to the grocery, from the discount clothing store to the gourmet nuts and candy shop, Christmas decorations fill the windows and the interiors.

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There is even a cart selling poinsettias on one of the side streets in what I like to think of as “deep Hamra” – a cart that used to sell fruit. Do poinsettias come from this part of the world? I’m embarrassed to say that I have no idea.

Even the hotels have gotten into the Christmas spirit – the Crowne Plaza has a beautiful painted window scene of a snowy December in what looks like an Alpine village, complete with reindeer:

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The village is charming, but the architecture looks like nothing I have seen in Lebanon:

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The glass facade near the main entrance doors has a large village church painted on it, but I didn’t want to press my luck with the hotel’s security staff, who already seemed a bit discomfited by my photographing the holiday windows.

All the Christmas decorations remind me of my first year working in New York, when person after person told me that he/she had grown up with a Christmas tree at home every December.

But you’re Jewish! I would say.

I know, but my parents didn’t want me to miss out, he/she would reply. Apparently the Jewish community in Des Moines took a different view – I don’t remember any of our family’s Jewish friends putting up a tree, although I do remember wishing that latkes were considered a traditional Christmas dish.

I suspect a similar feeling operates here in Beirut – or at least in greater Hamra, where the population is mixed, but certainly not majority Christian. Christmas is a joyful, festive time, and despite its religious foundations, large chunks of it – the tree, the presents, the electric lights, the food – have little to do with theology.

I see lots of holiday decorations, but I do not see advertisements encouraging people to buy Christmas gifts or to stock up on foods for the holidays – or even for the Starbucks eggnog lattes my sister loves. This is a secular Christmas celebration – and that’s fine with me. I love the decorations, and, as my father noted when I told parents about Christmas-time Beirut yesterday: its nice to be in a place where the Christmas retail season starts on December 1, rather than sometime in September.

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2 Responses to “Decking the Halls: its Christmas-time in the city”

  1. M.. said

    Yes, the US is different from Lebanon in that aspect. When I first moved to the US, I was “shocked” by all the Christmas marketing that begins in November.

    Also, I’ve really enjoyed your recent posts. Wish I had discovered this blog earlier!

  2. intlxpatr said

    I love eggnog lattes! I had my first this morning – it is a WOW. I keep asking in Kuwait when they will have Gingerbread lattes, Peppermint mocha and Eggnog lattes, and all I get is a blank stare.

    Oh! I will have to visit Lebanon in the Christmas season! Oh, Little Diamond, thank you for posting those photos!

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