Sunday, December 25, 2005

Secret Iraqi Santa

We had a rousing Christmas celebration. All of the staff - Muslim and Christian - participated in the festivities. A lavish, buffet-style meal was followed by dancing.

My Iraqi co-workers planned the event. About a week ago, they went around the office asking for ten thousand dinars (about six dollars) to pay for event. I gladly contributed, eager to see what would result. The next day, the planners visited me again. I forget exactly how they communicated it to me, but it was clear that they wanted me to participate in a gift exchange, too.

My co-workers managed to arrange the participation of the PSDs in the gift exchange, which meant that there was a wide range of gifts beneath the tree. The PSDs and other foreigners like myself were limited in what we could bring. We're not able to go shopping on the streets of Baghdad like Iraqis, so purchases were limited to items from the comissaries (or the PX, in the argot of Iraq) at military bases. Iraqis seem to like to give porcelain or glass figurines in heart shapes, or other tchotchkes.

I don't know who chose my name from the basket, but its clear that it was a PSD - I received a utility flashlight that could only be purchased at the PX. For my gift, I asked one of my Iraqi co-workers if she could purchase something for me to give. Thanks to her efforts, I gifted a blue and silver candle holder.

I suggested to some of my Iraqi co-workers that next year we might be able to have a festivus, too, accompanied by a festivus pole. One co-worker understood the allusion. The festivus pole would probably more closely conform with the Muslim tendency towards austerity in religious representation than a Christmas tree.


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