Rob Garratt comes to terms with the busiest month in his calendar
I always find February to be quite a stressful stretch. Not only did half of my family choose to be born in the same month, but half the world appears to go into some kind of commercial overload. With the Dubai Shopping Festival over and shoppers’ post-festive bank balances restored (well, part of the way), it seems as though shops officially declare February the month for recklessly adopting international celebrations.
It all comes to a head in the middle of the month, when in the space of four days, there are three celebrations I’d like to pay some respect to. However this year, like every year before it, enduring the triple-header of Chinese New Year (February 10), Shrove Tuesday (February 12) and Valentine’s Day (February 14) has once again left me boycotting all three.
As supermarket aisles compete to sell associated goods – a stand of Valentine’s Day roses bumping into the CNY celebration packs – I’m left in a befuddled state, daydreaming of sending my Chinese friends an edible batter rose, and the object of my affections a heart-shaped, pancake-wrapped chicken chow mein.
It only gets more overwhelming when the aforementioned run of birthdays comes into play. With my mother born on February 19, my oldest friend on February 20 and my father on February 27, there are also at least two more perfectly reasonable relatives (perhaps even a sibling?) who chose to be born in the interim. Surely that’s too much for anyone to remember? I’m all for efficiency-saving here – let’s send the same heart-shaped birthday cake with a side of crispy duck (wrapped in a pancake, naturally) to the lot of them.
I fear I’m not the only one who suffers this overload, but Dubai clearly isn’t the place to escape – its healthy cultural mix means I’m more overwhelmed with new celebrations than ever. I’d never been to a Brazilian carnival before this month, but I was proud to see Dubai hosting several events to mark the celebration – as the emirate did last month with Australia Day, and will do next month with Ireland’s St Patrick’s Day.
My embrace of this cultural cacophony is real, and as an expat I feel a tinge of excitement and exoticism to be able to celebrate all these occasions. So I guess my bugbear is strictly commerce-based. Rather than bumping into rows of cuddly bears and frozen noodles while I’m hunting for eggs and flour, free me from the shackles of commercialised fun and let’s go out and find the real thing.