As a Muslim born into a Muslim family, I have never celebrated Christmas. But I still very much enjoy the month of December. Despite the temperatures dropping to below freezing, I tend to get warm and fuzzy feelings inside—and that is not only thanks to a heavy winter coat, gloves, and hot chocolate. Rather, I feel like that “Christmas spirit” of joy and celebration tends to permeate throughout the air and into my own home. The all-around good mood of people preparing for family time and the holidays is an exciting time, even though I don’t have a holiday myself to experience at that time.
Living in America, it is really difficult to ignore Christmas and the holiday season. Walk into any store (sometimes as early as October), and you see the aisles slowly begin to carry red and green. Within a month, the cheer is everywhere. From the post office to the grocery store to the doctor’s office to the mall, the holiday vibes surround you. Your neighbor’s yard decorations shining through your own living room window at night, the soundtrack playing in the elevator, and the numerous emails, catalogues, and television advertisements coming straight to your inbox, door, and screen! The list goes on and on.
Even as a person who does not celebrate the holiday, I still enjoy this time. I like the holiday flavored candy. I enjoy driving past my neighbor’s lit up homes. As a kid, I loved watching holiday specials. As an adult, I thoroughly enjoy the sale prices. The winter break from Christmas to New Year’s was always a highlight of my school year. Now, it still is—as my nephews and nieces enjoy their breaks. Although our Islamic holidays do not currently fall between the end of December and early January, these couple of weeks still serve as our special family time since everyone can easily gather.
I have never felt bothered by people wishing me a “Merry Christmas” and at the same time I do not recall ever feeling less than for not having a decorated tree in my home. It was simple for us—Christmas is not a holiday we celebrate. I had no trouble explaining that to my peers as a kid. I had my own special holiday, and although I still imagine how wonderful it would be if my entire town celebrated it with me with decorations and grocery stores carrying special themed snacks and candy at that time, I can accept that is not a reality.
Muslim parents instead fill that potential void a child may experience by making their homes and places of worship sanctuaries during our special dates on the calendar. We have our own celebratory foods and traditions and fun. That time of year is always exciting and happy and wonderful. So to see other people experience that on their special occasions only brings me joy as well. It makes me happy to see others happy. If I get a piece of peppermint bark and a cup of hot chocolate in the process, all the better!
The other great perk that comes at this time of year for me as a person who does not celebrate Christmas is the opportunity for conversation. Someone may ask why I do not celebrate or what is it that I actually believe. I can then use that interaction to educate others about what my religion teaches. Yes, Muslims do believe in Jesus! We respect him immensely—as a prophet of God. We believe he had a miraculous birth from his mother Mary. We believe in the miracles he performed and in the original message he delivered from God. These kinds of conversations can help form a bond and find a common ground for two people, or two families, or two communities, that otherwise can become very jaded to to the similarities between them.
This December, I hope everyone enjoys their time. Whether that time is spent celebrating a holiday, catching up with family, or simply enjoying a day off by the fireplace as their kids play in the snow outside.