Christmas; Not New to Kuwaitis


Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Fa la la, la la la
Tis the season to be jolly
Fa la la, la la la

To all my Christian friends, merry Christmas. And to all of you Happy New Year.

I wish you a Merry Christmas
I wish you a Merry Christmas
I wish you a Merry Christmas
And a happy New Year

Celebrating Christmas with our Christian friends is not new to Kuwaitis. Moslem Kuwaitis were always known to respect other judo-Christian religions. And to give you a glimpse of history, here are some quotes from Eleanor T. Calverley, MD.the first American missionary woman doctor in Kuwait (since 1912) who had written in her book “My Arabian Days and Night(1958)” about one of her Christmas experiences in Kuwait:

“The joy of Christmas morning, I believe, was enhanced by our having to wait until after breakfast before going in to see the tree. Our colleagues arrived in the study, laden with parcels. Colonel and Mrs. More came in from their car with their arms full of daintily wrapped gifts. Last of all, His highness the Sheikh(1) drove up in his fine limousine, attended by an escort of retainers who remained outside when he came up the steps of the veranda. He wore a chaffiya (2) of white cashmere with a border embroidered in colors, and a fluffy woolen agaal (3), filleted with broad bands of gold. Gold embroidery embellished the neck of the brown woolen bisht(4) that hung from his shoulders to his brown leather oxford.
“Merry Christmas” the Ruler greeted us all in English, grinning at our surprise. We were all out on the veranda to shake his hand and inquire about his health, while he asked all the polite questions about ours. As he entered the house there came with him the fragrance of incense with just a hint of attar of roses. Thus are the handsome garments of Arabs, both men and woman, perfumed for important occasions. Then the door of the living room was opened and guests and family, with expressions of pleasure, found places to stand around the shining tree.” ( pages 130, 131)
“No one had spoken a word during the girls’ singing. The Shaikh knew the subject of the songs, although the words were in language strange to him. Moslems also believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. Their sacred traditions tell stories of Him that Christians have never heard. Our ruler could, without any disloyalty to his own religion, join in the celebration of Jesus’ birth. The children’s songs brought the program to an end.
The eyes of the little girls had not missed the site of dolls and other toys awaiting them on the floor under the tree. But before any of their own gifts had been touched, Grace, as spokesman for her sisters, handed the box of fudge to Shaikh Ahmad. In response, the honored guest, reaching into his pocket, drew out a small parcel wrapped in muslin and tied with a string. He handed it to Grace. Perhaps we all held our breath while she removed the string and displayed the gift: one hundred pearls- we counted them afterward- brought up by Kuwait’s divers from the depths of the Persian Gulf.” (pages131, 132)

(1)Shaikh Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Ruler of Kuwait and the father of the present Amir (1921-1950).
(2)Chffeya: a head wrap used by Arab men.
(3)Agaal: a head band worn over Chaffeya.
(4)Bisht: men’s attire worn over the regular Arab clothing in special occasions.

God, how much I miss the States at this time of the year

PS. Thanks DA for your invaluable gift 🙂

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22 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elegance
    Dec 22, 2005 @ 13:26:00

    I personally believe that we were a greater nation once because we were more tolerant people of other religions -Christians and Jews-. Take Al-Andalus for example, the Muslims fall of this Islamic civilization in Spain came at the hands of the Muslim and Christian fundamentalist invaders. The first invaded from North Africa and the second became extremists due to the effect of popes on Spanish Christians. People should learn how be more tolarent and respect other beliefs.

    Reply

  2. MissCosmoKuwait
    Dec 22, 2005 @ 13:29:00

    Tis the season to be jolly..fla fla la la la la…Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!!! Wishing you all the best! Cheer up…we might be missing the snow…but at least we can pretend we’re in Australia!

    Reply

  3. MiYaFuSHi
    Dec 22, 2005 @ 13:33:00

    I feel like going christmas caroling now. Just like when in school

    Reply

  4. Purgatory
    Dec 22, 2005 @ 16:05:00

    You just like to post such posts at specific times, just to get a reaction, don’t you 😛

    and I did not read the post

    Reply

  5. AyyA
    Dec 22, 2005 @ 16:26:00

    Elegance
    I believe in that sense, we are still a great nation and all the fundamental ideas are foreign to us. It came with others 7isbia allah 3ala illi dakhalhom baina. When you read that book, you would feel how tolerant and forgiving our grandparents were. And I’m proud of them as much as I’m proud of many Kuwaitis today.

    Misscos
    Actually I miss the spirit; the lively happy faces around. The “good morning” coming from a total stranger. I miss the snow too 😦
    But you know; since this morning the speakers of some American school nearby did not stop a mixture of Christmas chorales and national Kuwaiti songs. It vibrates such a nice feeling.

    Miya
    🙂

    Purgy
    LOL 😉
    But you know what? You missed a lot :p

    Reply

  6. q80_demon
    Dec 22, 2005 @ 20:42:00

    Thank you AyyA for this post. In all of my readings in history I always reached the same conclusions: not only was the Kuwaiti society tolerant of other cultures, but it was open and actually embraced such differences. That was what made Kuwait unique, with many travelers commenting that the country – and its people – was the most charismatic and friendly in the region. The xenophobic attitudes we witness nowadays came recently, and sadly due to the timid influence of a way of thought that some decades ago belonged to groups that were determined to destroy Kuwait. They were valiantly fought by the people of Kuwait.

    I was planning to post something similar, but as usual “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” ;-)) Now I think I’ll post about a super gift which came to my attention recently – maybe later tonight!

    And yes I concur; I also miss the US at this time of the year :-//

    Reply

  7. q80_demon
    Dec 22, 2005 @ 20:55:00

    Oh, and thank you for posting pictures of your stitch-work a couple of posts back :-))

    Reply

  8. Jelly Belly
    Dec 22, 2005 @ 21:26:00

    I think we still have the spirit of celebrating in us with our Christian friends and family in my case…so Merry Christmas everyone and Happy New Year to all :**

    Reply

  9. TANTALIZE
    Dec 23, 2005 @ 18:50:00

    Where’s the egg nog? Pour me another glass will ya?

    Reply

  10. Misguided
    Dec 24, 2005 @ 09:10:00

    Dear AyyA,

    Thanks for posting such a wonderful excerpt. Why is ot so hard for people to be tolerant. I have heard many westerners tell me “Happy Eid”. What’s the big deal.. I reall don’t understand.

    Thanks again for the lovely post….Oh! and

    Merry Christmas!

    truly,
    Misguided

    Reply

  11. AyyA
    Dec 24, 2005 @ 10:29:00

    q80_demon
    I hear you brother, if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have had known about what I posted. The problem with our history books that they are all distorted. One can only see the real picture when is said by others. And I’m sure that there are many books like this one- which I consider a Perl. But not many know about them. I think the government should encourage and ensure its republication and others that are part of our heritage.
    And I’m looking forward to read the post you promised, I’m sure it would be extraordinary.

    Jelly Belly
    You are one of the new generations that I’m proud of JB. You know ever since I was a teenager I always celebrated Christmas with my American aunt. Even after I got married and had children. My kids loved the glimmering tree and they did prepare their presents and were looking forward to getting some. But during the year of the invasion, I was in London and the kids missed Christmas tree, so I had to put one for them although at the time I did not feel like celebrating. But nevertheless, we gathered around the tree on Christmas Eve and the kids prayed for Kuwait’s return.
    Happy Christmas to you too dear.

    TANTALIZE
    Sorry buddy, at this time of the year we only servethis 🙂

    Misguided
    Did you notice that some people in the States greet you as: have a happy holidays? Instead of saying: Merry Christmas and happy NY? This is due to the fact that they do understand that not all religions celebrate Christmas, but nevertheless they wish them happy times. This in itself expresses the degree of tolerance that they are practicing. To those people I say: Merry Christmas and happy New Year although I’m not a Christian.

    And Merry Christmas to you too dear 🙂
    Ah and did you notice my links, I’m becoming an HTML expert thanks to you 😉

    Reply

  12. q80_demon
    Dec 24, 2005 @ 12:30:00

    Dear AyyA,

    One of the facts of life is that history self-corrects itself regardless of dogmas. The harsh attitudes one witnesses nowadays are bound to oblivion, and hopefully soon.

    Every year I make sure to remember to greet my Indian friends and colleges on the occasion of Diwali. Once some moron admonished me for doing so, claiming that it was a pagan festival – Talk about intolerance :-((

    Merry Christmas to our brothers in humanity, and let us not forget: Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day…

    And I hope you are not expecting a serious post ;-)) it will be a homage to a fellow blogger. First I need to obtain a certain item!

    PS: Happy Festivus to the Costanzas!

    Reply

  13. Peach
    Dec 24, 2005 @ 14:45:00

    Merry Xmas to you too sweety & Happy new yr 😉

    Reply

  14. Jewaira
    Dec 24, 2005 @ 22:07:00

    Lovely post AyyA and I love the excerpt. It is wonderful to read about how tolerant people have been in the past in Kuwait

    Reply

  15. Ms.Baker
    Dec 24, 2005 @ 23:27:00

    Ayya-

    Thanks so much for posting this wonderful and enchanting bit of our history. I am always so intrigued by the old stories of Kuwait and how Westerners such as Dame Dickson and others perceived it during the time before oil.

    I love Christmas and grew up celebrating it just as I did Eid or Ramadan. I have attended midnight mass with members of my Roman Catholic mother’s family. In fact, I am an actual Godmother ( LOL! It’s true!)

    Merry Christmas Ayya 🙂 May this holiday season bring you great comfort and joy.

    MsB

    Reply

  16. Ms.Baker
    Dec 24, 2005 @ 23:32:00

    P.S: I love the look of your beautiful blog…it’s so you and so very warm 🙂

    MsB

    Reply

  17. The Don ®
    Dec 25, 2005 @ 11:07:00

    Great Post as usual.. would days like these come back?

    Reply

  18. Jazz Central
    Dec 25, 2005 @ 11:08:00

    Great post. And so true that celebrating Christmas in Kuwait has been a tradition for as loooong as i can remember when I was a kid 🙂 By the way, just to let you know…“Fa la la, la la la”…..cracked me up! 🙂

    Reply

  19. AyyA
    Dec 26, 2005 @ 09:24:00

    q80_demon
    How true, history does self-corrects itself. And I also like to be hopeful in spite of this 🙂

    Peach
    Same to you sweetie :*

    Jewaira
    This shows the real Kuwaitis lady J

    MsBaker
    No matter how much some try to distort history, the truth is bound to be discovered one way or another as DA mentioned. And most Kuwaitis today are from a mixed culture, and ignoring this fact is a serious mistake.
    Thank you for the compliment sweetie, and I’m so glad to see you back
    Merry Christmas to you too dear :*

    The Don ®
    Thank you Don, and days like these will come back gasban 3an elli ma yertha.

    Jazz Central
    It is a tradition, and it will continue. I spent a wonderful Christmas this year with family, and inshalla doum

    Reply

  20. Drunk'n'Gorgeous
    Dec 26, 2005 @ 09:52:00

    Is it wrong to wish that I was born back then, when people in Kuwait had actual hearts as opposed to the blocks of ice they have now? Thanks for sharing Eleanor’s story with us. It brought a smile to my face 🙂 Merry Christmas darling!

    Reply

  21. Hanan
    Dec 26, 2005 @ 12:07:00

    How come bloggers are more tolerant that other people in Kuwait? Do you think our virtual existence is separate from our real one? Are we schizophrenic in a way where blogging allows us to let all our demons and angels out when in the real world we have to act as part of the intolerant annoying crowd?
    We should have a bloggers’ xmas/new year party, not a virtual one a la jewaira, but a real one where we have to watch out for our demons and angels.

    Oh and Ayya, thanks for the excerpt:)

    Reply

  22. AyyA
    Dec 27, 2005 @ 11:17:00

    D&G
    Same to you sweetie, and although we live at this time where elfatawi zadat 3an 7adha. Which reminds me of the Jewish story with the caw. LOL

    Hanan
    I think bloggers are more tolerant because they are special, just like you :*
    And I’m all for blogger Xmas party, only we have to do it next year wi kil 3am wi inti bekhair.

    Reply

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