Many Christmas tree lighting ceremonies and festive family events at hotels across Doha have been pushed back until after Qatar National Day this year.
The move comes on the heels of a memo from the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), reminding hotels that they must “focus” on celebrations for National Day on Dec. 18.
This is not a new requirement. But in past years, many hotels marked both QND and Christmas. And popular tree lighting ceremonies usually kicked off the festive season in early December.
This season, two of the most popular such events at the Four Seasons Hotel and the St. Regis Hotel will not not take place at all, spokespeople confirmed to Doha News.
The revised plans will likely come as a disappointment to the hundreds of families who have attended the events previously.
During last year’s tree lighting at the Four Season’s, Santa Claus arriving by camel, while children’s choirs sang winter songs under a decorated tree.
In addition to those two hotels, the Marza Malaz Kempinski on the Pearl-Qatar, Kempinski residences in West Bay, Sharq Hotel & Spa and Sheraton Grand said they all plan to focus on Christmas after National Day.
This is a break from years past, as many hotels would hold children’s events such as visits from Santa, as well as gingerbread house and cookie decorating throughout December.
It also means that the Christmas events will not be held until after the start of the winter break for most nurseries and schools – a time when many people are traveling.
Closer to Christmas
Several hotels said they received a memo from QTA this year, reminding them to prioritize National Day.
In a statement to Doha News, QTA said:
“We confirm that, as in previous years, hotel establishments are required to focus on Qatar National Day celebrations and decorations until 19 Dec each year, to reflect the prominence of this occasion to our visitors and guests.”
It remains unclear why hotels are taking the reminder particularly seriously this season.
The sector in general has had a difficult year, due to falling tourism numbers, increased competition and higher vacancy rates.
A source at one five-star hotel told Doha News, “The regulations say that you can still go ahead with festive celebrations, although nothing too obvious, but these need to be after National Day. We will be complying with these this year, despite what’s happened before.”
At the Sheraton Grand, for example, gingerbread house making and children’s craft sessions will take place only on Dec. 22 and 23.
Sharq Village & Spa has teddy bear afternoon tea, with carols and visits from Santa, scheduled from Dec. 20-24.
Meanwhile, Marsa Malaz Kempinski will host afternoon tea with Santa from Dec. 19 until 24.
And Kempsinksi Residences and Suites in West Bay will transform its Gourmet House cafe into a giant gingerbread house from Dec. 19 and will have a tree lighting ceremony in its lobby, with Santa, cookies and hot chocolate on Dec. 20.
The St. Regis Hotel is one of the very few venues to have some children’s gingerbread and cookie decorating classes scheduled earlier in the month, on Dec. 10 and 17.
And the Hilton said it plans to have a gingerbread castle set up in its Starbucks lounge starting Dec. 6.
Meanwhile, many hotels are still planning to hold lunch, dinner and afternoon tea events on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (Dec. 26).
Christmas can be a tricky thing to celebrate in Qatar for religious reasons as well.
Last year, several nurseries had to cancel winter parties and concerts, after receiving an order from the labor and social affairs ministry.
At the time, a two-page memo from the ministry said, “…it is prohibited on all nurseries to celebrate with non-Islamic rituals as it violates the constitution of Qatar and violates the rules of the …Law no. 1 of the year 2014.”
National Day events
With a month to go before QND, preparations have already begun along the Corniche. Lanterns are being strung on the trees and spectators’ stands are now under construction.
While most places have yet to announce their National Day events, some hotels have organized special afternoon teas and dinners for guests to celebrate.
The Shangri La Hotel has been taking pre-orders for an ornate cake modeled to resemble a traditional Qatari house.
Ordering closes on Nov. 18 for the QR1,812 confection, which is custom-made.
Meanwhile, the Sheraton Grand is hosting a day-long series of festivities on Dec. 18, including the cutting of cake “inspired by Qatari tradition and heritage” and live traditional music by a Qatari band and henna work.
Arabic coffee, dates and traditional Qatari desserts will be served in the lobby to all guests throughout the day, the hotel said.
The Marsa Malaz Kempinski will also host a cake cutting event at midday on Dec. 18, as well as other family activities.
We’ll keep you posted on both QND and Christmas in the coming weeks, so look for our guides on those events soon.