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.
Thank you. I agree. My husband and I are the only Muslims in our respective families and we have had to figure out what that looks like around the holiday season. We participate in white elephant gift exchanges at work if invited to, we participate in holiday dinners with family if we’re in town, but I’ve always tried to look at Christmas from the religious sense and not the secular Xmas sense because it was originally a religious holiday. And I wouldn’t want someone else celebrating Eid just to celebrate and not having any sense of the religious connotation or significance. So, that’s why we don’t celebrate Christmas. But the music and lights are fun and I try not to feel guilty for enjoying those when I see them.
I understand the dilemma. I came from a Christian background. I was a very sincere, very active young person (so many many years ago….lol) in our church. Yet, I felt a split with all the materialism of Christmas, I knew a few more conservative Christians who felt the same way,,,but their shared feelings about materialism also was attached to conservative Christian doctrine which I could not accept…So there I was alone in my thoughts. For the sake of family harmony I had to go along…Now, here in Japan, I am free from that pressure, no one I know here is Christian, or Muslim (but there are some down/up in Tokyo. There’s everything in Tokyo,,,,,lol) You have to have a clear understanding of why and what you’re doing. This writing clarifies it for you, Others I hope will be able to sort things out. I believe in consorting with other religions in harmony . There are boundaries, as I know clearly what I believe in regarding Christianity, Jesus was an Important Guy, but He came along in a progression of other Important Guys too. So, how much do I want to let out to the Christians I am with about my boundaries? This is the important key point. How much do I speak up and how much am I silent about..There are no fast and rigid rules. If I am speaking up, why? It is easier to remain silent and just go along. Yes, I want to draw attention to my religion, but I want to do it in a positive light. I want to say something that everyone can agree with. So this has to be very small things. And I have to be prepared for the range of reactions, and keep my cool, and keep focused on their soul within them, Doing that takes concentration, alot of concentration, and alot of self denial…..IMHO
Thank you so much for this article. It sums up exactly what i have been thinking about and wanting to express. I am Moroccan and was born a muslim and raised as such. This year i moved to france and i got to know a local family as a part of our exchange program. Last week they invited me to a christmas lunch. In order not to be rude i indeed accepted the offer and went with the thought of replying to an invitaton from someone who thought of me during this time of year but not as a celebration of their holiday. And knowing their gift exchanging tradition i brought one myself (a box of chocolat if you might ask lol) but as a guest gift. I think we need to have a clear mindset when it comes to these celebrations in order not to melt in all the stream of the holiday season. Most people enjoy the festivities and the holiday spirit which is not a bad thing at all if it makes you feel happy but just be careful and consious about the meaning behind all this to you ! if it is a mean of entertainement then by all means go ahead but religion wise be careful not to drown in contradictions.
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