Christmas in our little Spanish mountain village of El Hoyo is a low-key affair, but charming. A banner pronouncing ‘Feliz Navidad’ is hung across the entrance to the village and the trees in the square are decked with white fairy lights. Although people don’t send each other Christmas cards, they do decorate their houses with a Belén, or intricate, miniature nativity scene. Our neighbours always proudly show us theirs, displayed in their living rooms in pride of place. Unlike the UK, where Christmas is a massive commercial event, Christmas in Spain is much quainter and focuses far more on the religious significance.
Joe and I love Christmas in El Hoyo, so it’s quite a wrench to be here, in the Muslim Kingdom of Bahrain for Christmas. However, we’ve been quite surprised. Funny little Christmas trees have sprung up in odd places, like our hotel lobby, and some of the bigger stores are actually selling Christmas merchandise. Bahrain is home to thousands of expats, so I guess that’s to be expected.
Checking exactly when public holidays fall in Bahrain is not a simple matter of looking at the calendar. Islamic months start when a crescent moon is actually sighted by the appropriate religious authorities. Some festivals and holy days might fall a day before (or after) the predicted dates because if the moon is obscured by cloud, the holiday cannot be declared until the moon is actually visible to the naked eye. So you can imagine our confusion.Some holidays are only officially announced 12 hours before the start of the day, frequently leading to great uncertainty on the part of schools...
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