Why I Won’t Truly Celebrate Christmas as a Muslim

Diversity–getting to know how different cultures typically live, eat, celebrate holidays–is beautiful. Stepping out of your comfort zone to get to know and understand someone who was raised differently than you were is what is oftentimes lacking. We need acceptance, understanding, willingness to learn and openmindedness in order to improve the ways in which we coexist with one another as humans. While I understand the importance of having an open mind and learning about different cultures and religions, one thing I have never quite understood is why many Muslims become particularly gung-ho about celebrating Christmas.

I understand that this is a fairly controversial subject, considering shifts in generational beliefs and cultures. But just like any controversial topic, it should be deconstructed.

Christmas is inherently a day of great religious significance, although these days many claim that it’s been reduced to a commercialized cultural icon. Christmas day, Dec. 25, is actually meant to commemorate the birth of Jesus, otherwise known as the savior in Christianity. Since Muslims don’t believe that Jesus is a savior, why do so many of us Muslims celebrate Christmas as if he is?

Christmas is inherently a day of great religious significance.

I know this argument becomes nuanced when you come from a multireligious or multiethnic family. And I know it can be hard during the holiday season to not get sucked into the traditions. I come from what I like to call a “melting pot family”–my mother was born in Finland and raised in Sweden as a Christian, while my father was born in Kuwait and raised in Cairo as a Muslim. My sisters and I choose to follow Islam and were born Muslim, while my mother remains nonpracticing. For this reason, I understand that different families can have different religious and traditional dynamics. However, I still believe becoming too comfortable celebrating Christmas in its true form, with its religious significance, can lead to dangerous territory, where the lines of Islam and Christianity become blurred.

For the same reasons we wouldn’t want Christians to begin celebrating Ramadan and Eid “just for fun,” we should avoid trying to adopt another religion as our own.  We also shouldn’t feel as though we have to fit into “Christmas culture” as non-Christians, because we have our own holidays and beliefs to adhere to. We don’t need to be included in Christmas festivities in order to be valid.

Personally, I see nothing wrong with finding joy in the holiday season, as we should try to find joy at all times of year if possible. Exchanging gifts with friends who take initiative to include non-Christians in their traditions or saying “Merry Christmas” seems like the polite thing to do. However, I don’t think I will ever truly celebrate Christmas out of a respect and understanding for Islam.