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So this is Christmas: Comfort and Joy!

With thanks to Brian for this lovely piece...

19 more sleeps until it’s Christmas.  I am sitting in a café in the lobby of the Holiday Inn hotel in Kuwait City.  That’s Kuwait, the Muslim country at the head of the Persian Gulf.  And I’m watching a team of people decorate a Christmas tree they have just erected.

18 more sleeps until it’s Christmas.  Early evening. Now Father Christmas figures, festive packages and model reindeerhang from the ceiling of the hotel lobby.  A wooden stall, its roof covered in “snow” is being constructed close to the tree.  I photograph the tree and whatsapp it to my family with the caption: “Getting ready for a traditional Islamic Christmas”.  It prompts a blizzard of replies with appropriate song titles: Allah want for Christmas is youRudolph the Riyadh-nosed reindeerEid’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . . Cynical pun-making at the incongruity.

16 more sleeps until it’s Christmas and the hotel lobby is alive with children running and shouting.  They have been at a party to celebrate the turning on of the hotel’s Christmas tree lights. Christmas songs are playing.  Parents crowd the café and spill across the lobby, chatting while their children (each clutching a big party bag) are distracted by the wooden stall which now proudly features a chocolate fountain.

There are British children, German children, French children, Egyptian children, Indian children, Filipino children, Kuwaiti children . . .  Yes, Kuwaiti children.  Their mothers, most wearing abaya and niqab, with only their eyes and hands visible, queue up to be photographed by each other in front of the tree.  Their eyes shine.  They giggle excitedly.

All my cynical smugness falls away.  Everywhere I look,people, young and old, are smiling and laughing.  Regardless of religious and ethnic differences, regardless of the reasons that brought them to this place, at this time, it is a truly joyous occasion.

I share their moments of joy.  

So now I want to be home.

7 more sleeps until it’s Christmas.  I’m under bright lights on the stage of the handsome theatre at Hurstpierpoint College, about to begin our Christmas concert.  All around me, familiar faces of friends and acquaintances from inChoirs in Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath and Shoreham.  Out front, familiar jokes from Mark, and the familiar mix of cheery Oi! Oi!banter and consummate professionalism from Karen.

For eight months of this year I missed the choir – including the 10th anniversary concert.  Now, here I am – vocal chords somewhat rusty, and not quite word-perfect on the summer songs – loving the moment.

There’s a lot to be said for those things in our life that are familiar.  I have learned never to take them for granted.  I have also learned that, when life is dislocated, they give me comfort.  

It’s a much derided word, “comfort”, isn’t it?  For some it has connotations of being old and staid; of lacking ambition; of not wanting to take risks.  Of being boring.

I beg to differ.  When I feel comfortable, I feel that I am able to be the best version of me that I can possibly be. And when that happens, in the company of 200 other singers, it is truly a joy.

Happy Christmas!