This has been a year for paring back Christmas. Largely by economic necessity, many people have been trimming their gift lists, subduing their celebrations and aiming for a simpler, lower-key holiday.
But some, like Mr. Nainan, are taking that sentiment to the extreme. For them, this is the year of the anti-Christmas, the year when everything — from the pressure to find the perfect present to the prospect of family drama over roast turkey — just got to be too much.
YEAH, CHRISTMAS SUCKS THIS YEAR: AND IT'S ALL BUSH'S FAULT!
In Praise of Beirut (where Christians have been terrorized for 100 years - so bad that most have left):
ON a balmy Middle Eastern night, our feast was rolling along fabulously on the outdoor roof terrace of Abd el Wahab, a vaulted and marbled Beirut gastropalace, when a flock of birds made a sudden appearance.YEAH, SURE: WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD BEIRUT THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF IS CUISINE AND CINDERELLA - AND NOT JIHADO-CIVIL WAR.
They came not from the sky but on a large plate, served by a suited, poker-faced waiter. Their blackened headless carcasses, each barely palm-sized, were soaked in a dark sauce that gave off a tangy aroma. Through wisps of sweet chicha smoke exhaled by boisterous groups at nearby tables, my Lebanese companions explained that the birds are traditionally eaten whole. I was dubious.
Hesitantly, I popped one in my mouth. Tiny bones cracked like toothpicks. In a quick burst, succulent meat mingled with the sweet-sour basting sauce. It was sublime. A miniature Hitchcockian menace had been transformed into an unexpected gastronomic gem.
“What kind of birds are they?” I asked the waiter.
“Small birds,” he said.
Such moments are blissfully common in Lebanon, where even the most bland produce or unlikely meats undergo culinary hocus-pocus and emerge, Cinderella-like, as belles of the ball.
And in praise of Jordan:
For all of the animosity, mistrust and lack of understanding between the West and the Muslim world, this small Middle Eastern country has demonstrated that most people here have the capacity to laugh at themselves — and at jokes about bodily functions, too.
When comedians from North America faced a theater packed with Arabs this month and poked fun at the local practice of marrying a cousin, tweaked Palestinians as being skilled stone throwers, feigned fright at an audience member named Osama, everyone laughed, and laughed hard.
When it comes to humor, apparently, there is no clash of civilizations.
“Back at home people ask me, do Arabs laugh?” said Dean Obeidallah, a stand-up comedian originally from New Jersey who was executive producer of the Amman Stand-Up Comedy Festival. “I will be honest, you guys laugh more than Americans.”
Indeed, for seven nights in a row, thousands of Jordanians packed into a theater in the center of this city and laughed so hard, hooted, hollered and cheered so easily, the comics themselves were a bit taken aback. Jordanians were hungry for a laugh, even at their expense. Two of the shows were in Arabic, and they sold out, too.
YEAH, SURE: FOR COMICS, AMMAN IS RIGHT UP THERE AFTER VEGAS AND ATLANTIC CITY!
That they chose these stories and these story angles on Christmas Eve tells you a lot about the NYTIMES: they are anti-Christian. They are deliberately running stories which denigrate Christmas and/or elevate Arabs and Muslims - on Christmas.