The Economy Of Celebrations

Let me first confess that as I begin to write this post I really haven’t formulated a position yet. Suffice to say it’s a topic that’s been brewing in the furthest confines of my mind and has only recently, i.e. the past few hours, found its way to the surface of articulation. That being said, the intention of this post has less to do with declaring a position as it does with attempting to instigate a discussion about the topic itself.

There is a constant struggle in the Middle East that seems to be ongoing. Celebrating an event or an occasion has become increasingly difficult these days when such celebrations happen on the contrasting backdrop of regional horrors. How can someone celebrate anything lately when there’s just so much turmoil and catastrophes overshadowing our region?

Engagements, weddings, elections, graduations, births, etc. We don’t have a deficiency of occasions, nor for that matter calamities. Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia. Occupation, war, strife and death. To say nothing of the dog-bites-man issues that aren’t sexy enough to be headlines. Issues like poverty, unemployment and education.

So how inappropriate is it to celebrate something these days?

Are Jordanians who launch fireworks into the night sky being disrespectful to the neighboring conflicts, in the same way that say, a man decides to celebrate his son’s engagement while his next door neighbor mourns the loss of his wife?

Is that an accurate analogy?

The latter situation would probably never happen as it simply transgresses all lines of respect that allow us to continue to live in a society. However the former situation is pretty much a daily event.

Is it more of an out-of-sight-out-of-mind kind of thing?

Because what makes matters worse is that globalization and the new media environment has made everything feel and appear much closer than before. Borders are slowly disappearing and ignoring things that are happening next door becomes a much more difficult task.

Yet we are still able to do it. And just to make something clear, when I say “we” and “Jordanians”, I am using “us” as just a small sample of what I feel is something is happening all across the Arab world, hence the redefining of “us”.

When we celebrate do we sell out that which is dear to us?

Perhaps it’s become part of our regional apathy to the matters of heart. TV seems to play the same events over and over again. Dying in the Middle East is a daily event. We’ve become anesthetized, as I’ve tried to say here before.

Though is it a realistic expectation that everyone put their lives on hold in respect of, whatever?

It’s easy for people to shake their heads when it comes to the choices others make, but when an occasion hits closer to home even these same people tend to go out guns a-blazin (literally).

Looking at Iraq lately, with the Iraqi team making its way to the Asia Cup finals, Iraqis themselves have been celebrating their team’s wins. But with every celebrating a dozen people seem to end up dead. Meanwhile here in Amman, Iraqis cruise the streets of the west end with flags waving from their cars, honking them ecstatically.

Yesterday Jordanians celebrated Tawjihi (high school examinations) results, with fireworks erupting all across Amman and the rest of the country. Judging by the impressive presentation I could tell a lot of money was spent on all the celebrating; to say nothing of honking cars, and crazy teens screaming. And while I’m on the subject let me just briefly say that although so many people found the fireworks annoying, it should be pointed out that they are a result of the anti-gun crackdown on celebrations. In other words, I’d rather see pretty lights in the sky than have to hear the rat-a-tat of a Kalashnikov and read about some kid who was hit by a stray bullet the night before. But this is beside the point and I apologize for the digression.

The point I am trying to make here comes in asking where we draw the line with celebrations. Do we have a right to celebrate in the midst of conflicts that might not be effecting us directly (resulting in our immediate downfall), but nevertheless effect those who are closest to us? Do we wallow in mourning over never-ending conflicts, draining even our children of the last social luxury they have: hope? Or would kicking our celebratory habits help us, as a society, to focus on the big issues and move towards solving them ourselves?

How realistic are either of these questions, and their answers?

There are times, I admit, when I personally find the choice to celebrate during a specific context of time, to be inappropriate. But then I remember that I’m just one person, and that’s just me. And I also remember, that some times celebrations have the phenomenal capacity to bring people together like nothing else, and something that bonds us in a time when elements conspire to do the opposite, is not such a bad thing. And I also remember that some times the act of celebration is an act of relief; relief from the news, from the conflict, from the deaths, from the monotony of the status quo. Something to refresh the soul with. Something to cleanse the pallet with.

But in actuality, like I said before, I really don’t have an exact position on the matter and I guess that’s because it’s such a context-specific issue.


  • Conflicts aside, do we have the right to celebrate in the middle of the night, right in the middle of residential areas, where kids wake up screaming at night because an idiot just passed the tawjihi and his father is so proud, but wanted to wait till everyone was actually sleeping before begininng his stupid celebrations -for maximumm impact maybe!!-? Fire works after 12 at night? Geez, you’d think a new Einstein is born!

  • I can’t understand why you have to celebrate to pass the tawjihi… It is supposed to be a duty to every student… those who celebrate this way do it probably because they passed it without study or because they thought they were not going to succeed… that I agree is a case to celebrate…

  • We have the right to be happy, we have the right to celebrate, hight blood pressure and heart attacks won’t solve the middle east crisis, maybe if we experince happiness we will have no more grudges and focus on what makes us human.

  • Yes they do have the right to celebrate because there’s no way you can keep up with the depressing events around you. Still, there should be some responsibility shown when celebrating. I agree with you Nas that fireworks are better, but at this specific moment I’m still hearing a long round of gun shots nearby for some ‘celebration’. Even with fireworks, they shouldn’t be allowed at any place and time because they too can invade the privacy of others and cause distress for those not involved in the celebratory events.

  • Many people know who their neighbors are and in the past (not too long ago) you wouldn’t find a wedding and a celbration taking place next to a house when one of the neighbors has a 3aza in his house. People did something about it.

  • Hey! This is a very interesting question. I think that celebration is important to the human psyche. Moderation is equally important, obviously, but you can’t shut off that escape valve completely.

    There will always be conflict, there will always be terror, there will always be death, destruction, and simple human misery. But “celebrate we will, ’cause life is short but sweet for certain.”

    OK, the Dave Matthews Band quote is probably lame, but you see my point, no? 😉

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