Now that the Christmas season has come and gone, I’ve had some time to reflect on the holidays this season. As a Muslim, I’ve never celebrated Christmas or Hannukah. But I’m not going to lie, after Ramadhan and Eid, this is my favorite time of year. For one thing it’s reminiscent of my school days and how we’d have tons of holiday parties, movie days and of course winter vacation. One of my favorite things to do is to drive around the cool crisp nights and see everyone’s holiday lights, ranking who did the best and who didn’t even try. Then there’s curling up with a mug of hot chocolate and watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and Harry Potter marathons. To this day, I still watch Arthur’s Perfect Christmas, a PBS Kids classic around Christmas time (and you should too!)
But as a I grew older, it felt like the family and community aspect of this time was less significant and more focused on outlandish commercialism. No one was really focused on Jesus or his story but rather focused on sales and what gifts were out there. Kids used to talk about what presents they got and if their parents fulfilled all their demands. I felt like there was no faith involved whatsoever. It was weird to relate to a holiday that seemed to grow increasingly about stuff… and not spirituality.
My family sometimes gave food to our non-Muslim neighbors during Ramadhan as a form of celebration, my mom would sometimes buy gifts and make me and my brother go around the block to give them to all the families. I was taught at an early age by my mother about community and interfaith outreach through giving during this season.
Let us not forget that this holiday was centered around Jesus, a revered prophet in Islam as well. As a Muslim, I feel it’s my duty to be a good neighbor and reach out to those that are near. One of the most amazing bonds of the people of the book is the connection of Jesus (p.b.u.h.).
When my neighbors receive a gift from their Muslim friends, the smile on their face is wonderful. We talk about their plans for the holidays and it opens communication between us. Sometimes, I even get some Christmas cookies in return, which are always dee-licious!
The most memorable Christmas season I recall happened in 2016, post Trump election. I remember feeling pretty bummed out about the holidays and didn’t think all of my years of gift giving had even mattered. But strangely, that year the neighbors were knocking on our door offering us homemade treats and wishing us well. It really moved me to see how caring my neighbors were – and that by visiting them with gifts over the years for the holidays had eventually built up a caring relationship.
So, although I still believe the holiday season has been plagued with commercialism, there is still a spirit in the air of kindness, of welcoming neighbors and of people from all different creeds who come together in building a strong sense of community. With that, let’s move forward into the new year as brothers and sisters, no matter what faith we follow. Goodness comes from within, and should always last more than the two weeks of holidays festivities.
Here’s hoping you all have an amazing new year, and an equally amazing lifetime of good spirit!