With the 45th National Day of the UAE coming up on the 2nd of December 2016, there is a patriotic vibe everywhere.
It’s great to see that all expat communities of Dubai, especially families with young children go all out to celebrate National Day. Schools play such an important role in developing this spirit by teaching them about the culture and heritage of the UAE for weeks leading up to 2nd December.
In the 1990s, when I was in school, National Day celebrations involved singing songs about the UAE in the primary classes and doing creative projects about the different emirates, the rulers, the history and the culture of the UAE, as we got older. Outside school, the most exciting thing about National Day was a parade of the most expensive and fanciest cars adorned with the UAE flag, along 2nd December street, which was then known as Al Dhiyafah street.
Today, when my older son is in his foundation stage at school, he sings multiple songs about the UAE and has been talking about the flag, the rulers, camels and so much more, for weeks now. They even had a camel and a falcon visit the school a week before the national day – the complete experience with the kids holding the falcon on their arms – so they could learn about the national animal and bird of the UAE, up close. National day celebrations at school include dressing up in traditional Arabic costumes and getting a taste of Arabic cuisine and sweets, while teaching them the importance of charity by donating to an organisation like Dubai Cares.
These days, a lot has been commercialised. From miniature flags to caps, mufflers, pins, hair clips, car accessories, etc., countless number of things are available in the UAE flag colors and prints. However, this commercialisation has helped spread the spirit too. Flags fly high on buildings and highways. Retailers and Malls put up their best sales. Kite beach has the letters “UAE” spelled out with numerous flags, that can be seen from the sky. Instagram and other social media is full of people posting their love for the UAE in any way.
In my view, even though the way of celebrating the National Day on 2nd December has changed vastly, the spirit and the love for the nation hasn’t changed and never will. I sang “Let’s salute the UAE” when I was a kid and am proud to join along when my son sings it now. I will always be an expatriate here, but it doesn’t stop me from loving this place like home.
Happy 45th National Day to one and all!