Here in Qatar we celebrated Qatar National Day on the 18th December. Businesses and schools closed in honour and there are events planned for a four-day period around the celebrations. Compounds, walled-in housing estates behind gates and a guard, are decorated by the property management companies. Qataris spray paint their cars in the maroon and white of Qatar and the scene along the Corniche is like the prom in Galway after winning an All -Ireland. If everyone in Galway drove a white 4×4, wore full Qatari national dress and celebrated without abandon or drink!
The motto of Qatar National day this year is ‘as long as it was proven by our deeds, Qatar will remain free’ and fair play the blockade has brought one great incentive for the nation of Qatar to revel in their nationalism and boy do they know how to celebrate. Images of the Emir, our leader, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, are plastered onto cars, murals and t-shirts and the whole of Qatar celebrated their identity and exulted in their national pride by attending air-shows, fireworks displays and formal marches, picnics in the park all of which were enveloped with a good dollop or joie de vivre, but there is one thing missing, alcohol.
See here is the thing, we understand talk of nationalism and celebration but to actually do it sober, without the assistance of alcohol is alien to us.
The Paddy’s Day motto for every year in my memory was, ‘we are where we are, have a drink, suck it up’. Feet frozen to the spot, rigid with negativity, self-deprecation and the cold, we cheered on the floats in the parade, a hospital bed on a back of a Hiace, a transit van with a few set dancers on the back, one of which to be a burly man dressed as a woman, the point of which no-body really ever understood but we laughed away anyway, and said ‘cheers’ to Ireland and Irishness, and agreed that apart from the boys band marching and playing whistles and the GAA representation, the rest was a mess. The only thing worse would have been if we were sober, and we certainly were not because that’s what Paddy’s Day was all about. A piss up, a no holes barred session and why wouldn’t it be, because that’s our thing.
Here in Qatar, watching sober celebrations of a national day, makes one wonder, why do we need drink to celebrate, when it can clearly be done without?
Is alcohol so embedded in our psyche and culture that the association between alcohol and celebration, occasion, event or even just Friday, now innate? We only have to look at Christmas and think back a few years, when the bottle Blue Nun or Black Tower, if you were posh, graced the Christmas table like a mystical guest, warm and unfamiliar the white wine rested in the Texaco stamp wine glasses creating an air of mystic, a sense of occasion around Christmas.
Fast forward a few years and Christmas morning wouldn’t be right for many without a bottle of champers and now this year, perhaps late to the party but I only found this out last week, there’s an advent calendar of drink, a little snifter for each day of December, beautifully packaged, and perfectly packaged to include the 21days it takes to break or make a habit, such as a-drink-a-day.
We truly are a marketeer’s dream. Like drowning kittens in a barrel, the alcohol industry marketeers are revving up the associations, a log fire & a glass of red, relax with a Baileys, have fun with Prosecco, craft beers, mulled wines flavoured vodka and fancy gins that boast flavours like rhubarb and elderberry, selling it as an almost holistic experience. Gone are the days when you’d have to justify a midday drink, guilt over a shoddy white at lunch or a flat gin at home. Now, just add fizz to the wine and a twist of cucumber to the gin and hey presto, justification and national acceptance of alcohol consumption received. Ingenious.
Happy Qatar National Day,have a drink for us.