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News Comment
a personal view from Erithacus

28th November 2009 

Share prices fell heavily on Thursday and on Friday morning over financial concerns in Dubai.  The earlier announcement that Dubai had debts of more than $80 billion sent stock markets worldwide plunging, and some analysts estimate that the true figure is nearly twice that.  The state-owned conglomerate Dubai World, a major property developer that led Dubai's expansion and known for the remarkable palm tree-shaped island developments, confirmed that it was currently unable to repay debts of over $56 billion and asked creditors to wait while restructuring is worked out.  Banking shares across the world were hit by the announcements, with serious concern for the financial position of many of Dubai's creditors as well as loans direct from banks.  

The FTSE 100 index in London finished at  5247.26, recovering a little on Friday afternoon from the low of just a few points above the 5100 level.  Despite the concerns about Dubai, market analysts point out that even after such a major upset to financial confidence, the FTSE 100 remains over 1000 points higher than it was a year ago and nearly 2000 points higher than its lows of March this year.

_______________________________________________

As Thanksgiving gets underway in the USA this weekend, it seems appropriate to pause for a moment and give a little thought to the various breaks and festivals we celebrate.  For once, I am not complaining.  We all need a break and an excuse to do something different from our usual routine.  We might all, perhaps, benefit by listening to a Sikh I heard being asked why he was apparently going to celebrate Christmas when, clearly, it had nothing to do with his religion.  "That's the great thing about Sikhs," he said happily.  "Any excuse for a party."
So, as the darker days of winter are now upon us and as the weather has turned particularly wet and windy over the last two weeks, should we take his advice?  It is not as if we were short of "excuses".  Christmas, which many complain is over-commercialised and has "lost its real meaning" is, of course, our biggest celebration of the year.  Combined with New Year, for many it is a break of at least a week.  Should we all be making the effort to return it to its true Christian meaning, a celebration of the birth of Christ?
I think not.  The religious significance of Christmas is important, and certainly we must never forget that.  Whatever your beliefs, Christmas represents the beginning of the religion that (arguably) has influenced the world and the way we live more than any other.  It is, however, even more than that.  The only reason that Christmas is celebrated when it is, on 25th December, is that this was a time when a mid-winter festivals were already taking place throughout Europe long before the birth of Christianity.  We need the break.  We need the light, the sparkle, the time to forget the cold, dark days of winter and to eat, drink and, if not to be merry then at least to take the time to realise there is more to our lives than our usual daily routine.
Winter festivals are not just a remembrance of particular events.  They meet a deep need in all of us.  We let off fireworks on 5th November (or thereabouts!) not really because of Guy Fawkes (an event that deeply mystifies our American friends who can't understand why we insist on celebrating someone who tried to blow up our Parliament) but because we have a deep need to mark the transition from summer and autumn into winter, to brighten the long, dark evenings, and to drive away the shadowy spirits of winter depression.

It is very simple.  Our Sikh friend summed it up quite nicely:
"Any excuse for a party."
 



28th November 2009                        



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