Has Celebrating Christmas Become Secular?
Break out the hot cocoa, and the fairy lights, peeps, because we are going FULL-ON this festive season! There is nothing the #MuslimGirlClique loves more than to breathe-in the magical ambiance that inevitably accompanies the winter season, even though the observance of these traditions is always accompanied by a certain degree of ambivalence and uncertainty given their association with a certain Christian holiday (ahem, we’re looking at you Christmas, ahem).
Here at Muslim Girl, however, we like to celebrate the diversity, and tolerance of the “Muslim Millennial Woman”. We like to observe, learn, and comprehend the world around us, whilst opening our arms to that which differs from our own worldview. After all, without frank discussion and dialogue, we’re basically susceptible to all matter of ill-informed opinions, aren’t we?
So, in true Muslim Girl fashion, we did what we do best. We discussed. And then we wrote about it. Below is a series of recollections from a few of our writers, engaging in this seriously over-looked discussion:
Cultural vs. Religious.
“I have always loved the Christmas season. Even in Egypt, my family and I would watched dubbed Home Alone. So it was only natural that when we moved to the U.S., our family would decorate, and participate in the Christmas cheer. For the past 10 years, my mom would wear her Mrs. Clause hat, and my dad would be Santa, with the siblings and I featuring as elves, of course, and we would go look at lights around the neighborhood. My family though, always made it clear that this is a cultural holiday, not a religious one. My mom, especially, would have us learning about the prophethood of Jesus around this time of year. So, not only did we grow to like Christmas as a holiday, but we grew in our love of Islam and all the prophets.” – Nada Mousa
Is it Really Such a Big Deal?
“Growing up in a pretty strict Muslim/Indian household, we never decorated. It’s considered a major taboo, so not even distant relatives would participate. But I’ve always loved and enjoyed the spirit and decorations, and never really saw it as the serious matter the elder generation would make it out to be. I always looked at it as decoration, not submitting yourself to the actual celebration of Jesus. I can see myself implementing the traditions of decorating in my own place in the future, but for now, I guess I can enjoy the lights downtown (sigh).” – Sana Harhara
Determined to Decorate, NOT Celebrate.
“I was raised in a pretty strict Pakistani-Muslim home. It was just understood that we wouldn’t decorate for the Christmas holidays, since we don’t celebrate it. I would see that all of my friends who were Christians had the big trees, the holly, the lights, and it just felt HAPPY. I never dared to ask if we could ever have a tree, or even some lights. It was such a taboo in our Pakistani community, and my parents didn’t want to be the odd ones out. As we all got older, I saw that some of the Muslim girls who had married and were out of their parents house, joyously decorated their homes for Christmas. It was still frowned upon, but people seemed to get over it quick enough. After I was married, I was determined to decorate, NOT celebrate, but decorate to my heart’s content! I started off slow, as to not offend any of my new family. At first, it was a wreath on the front door, then a center-piece for my kitchen and coffee table. Pretty soon, my husband was stringing up lights! And I was surprised that the year we had a tree up, nobody seemed to mind at all! I feel that with the people around me, maybe they have come to realize that we are simply just partaking in the jolly atmosphere, and not celebrating the actual religious holiday. I mean, we believe in Jesus. He is a very important prophet in Islam. If celebrating him means my children can learn about him, and other prophets then I see no harm!” – Mariam Tanvir
The Joy of Inter-Religious Families.
“I was born and raised Muslim. My mom converted just before she found out she was pregnant with me. Since I don’t have any of my dad’s family here (including my dad as he moved away when I was 4 to British Columbia), we spent a lot of time with my grandmother and uncle (both whom were Christian). I remember being introduced to Santa when I was 4 or 5, as I spent at least one day a week with my family, and even more so during the holidays. While we didn’t decorate at home, my grandma decorated and it truly made me open my eyes to different religions. Additionally, I used to go to halaqas every weekday for 5 years, so you could say I had both, Islamic and Christian knowledge.When my parents divorced in 2004 (I was almost 9), we moved in with my grandmother and uncle. That’s when the decorating began. My grandma had a decoration for everything, and she loved the spirit of the holiday season. Especially now that she had a kid in the house, and my uncle was still with her (he had a form of autism), she tried to make the holidays very special for us. I remember finding my gifts before Christmas and trying to take a peek. Just your standard Christmas experience! Anyway, when my grandma died in 2009, we kept some of her traditions going, more for my uncle’s sake. Sadly, my uncle died in 2016 after a short battle with cancer. However, we made his last Christmas extra special. I hope my story shows you how I lived in an inter-religious household. It showed me how we can take aspects of other religions without actually celebrating the religious side of it. While I don’t agree with the religious reasoning behind Christmas, the cultural aspect is beautiful, and reminds me so much of Eid. This is going to be the first year that I don’t decorate, as my husband doesn’t want to, but he does appreciate my mom’s efforts.” – Mariam Nouser
Inter-Religious Harmony is a Beautiful Thing.
“Growing up, even though we would never celebrate Christmas ourselves, we had family friends who were Christians so we usually ended up visiting them. They’re my parents’ college friends, so the group went way back. They knew that we didn’t eat meat unless it was halal, so they would go out of their way and order halal meat for us, which is really sweet of them. They would decorate the tree before everyone came, and we’d stay up late enough that all of the kids could watch The Parent Trap, or Harry Potter. For me, it was more of a fun experience :)” – Amani Salahudeen
Overall, we came to the conclusion that our faith didn’t need to be so insecure, that it couldn’t handle indulgences reminiscent of the holiday season, like a wreath laden with red ribbon here or there, or a string of those colorful lights. The consensus was that using the festive nature of the holiday season to foster a sense of togetherness or happiness, shouldn’t be looked upon with suspicion, but as a positive experience where we have the opportunity to overcome our arbitrary differences, and create a sense of community beyond our own comfort zones. After all, only when we align ourselves in spite of our differences can we create alliances for the better.