Every December I’m faced with various questions by retail assistants, colleagues and anyone else I come into contact with in public, which are all along the lines of:
“So what are you doing for Christmas?”
“Are all the family coming over for Christmas?”
“Have you done all your Christmas shopping yet?”
And every year, I put on this weird smile on my face, and mumble something incoherent about either it’s going to be a small Christmas this year, or lie about how I’ve almost finished with the Christmas shopping. Or I just chuckle and move the conversation along to something that isn’t about Christmas. There’s nothing shameful about the fact that I don’t celebrate Christmas…I’m Muslim after all so it’s not expected of me and Christmas Day is just like any other day to me, but that doesn’t stop the questions from flowing about how I spend my time and how I feel during the Christmas holiday, which usually involve these:
“What’s your version of Christmas then?”
Quite simply, I don’t have one. I used to reply with the fact that I have two Eids in a year which makes up for the one Christmas, but as I have grown older, I can say that Muslims do not have an ‘equivalent’ to Christmas, at least that’s my opinion. While they both encompass similar aspects, such as the praise and gratitude towards God, a feast of a variety of food and being surrounded by loved ones, I think it’s safe to say that Eid is less commercialised and celebrated by only Muslims, while Christmas is not only celebrated by Christians as part of their faith, but in some places, has become more a part of the culture and therefore celebrated by people that don’t believe in Jesus Christ and God.
“Do you still get presents though?”
As an outsider during the Christmas period, the first thing I think of when it comes to Christmas is presents. I know people like to emphasise the fact that Christmas is all about giving and time for family, but when all I see is the gross commercialisation of what is primarily a religious and spiritual holiday, it is hard for presents and spending not to be my primary thought when it comes to the holiday season. Recently at work I said that I didn’t want to participate in the staff Secret Santa and a colleague said to me, “But don’t you want a free Christmas gift?” Now I’m not a very festive/Christmassy person as you can probably tell from this post, so I was a little annoyed that my refusal to join the Secret Santa was met with continuous, “Are you sure?” and “Oh come on, it’ll be fun!” I’ve done Secret Santa in the past with friends and it was all fun when I was younger, but as an adult, I now know that I don’t have to be a part of it if I don’t want to be.
“Don’t you feel like you’re missing out?”
Surprisingly …. no. As a Muslim growing up in the West where Christmas is pretty much in your face from 1st November onward, I’ve not once ever felt like I’m missing out on anything. This has been many people’s assumption, especially when I was younger as I guess they thought I must have been yearning for Santa to stop by my house. However, I can honestly say that I have never felt that I am missing out in any way. You can’t miss what you’ve never had and the stress of buying Christmas presents has never been that appealing to me considering my dislike for shopping. And I spend a lot of time with my family generally so having family around at Christmas would not be any different to the rest of the year for me.
“What do you do on Christmas Day then?”
Honestly, Christmas is like any other day for me. We don’t cook anything special. We don’t do anything special. My family and I are usually indoors, taking advantage of the good array of films on TV. There’s really not much to say about this as my Christmas Day is really very not entertaining.
I feel like I probably sound so much like a Scrooge, but there are some things I like about the holiday season. Everyone is much more friendly and helpful during the Christmas period, which is always a plus. I also appreciate the genuine warm wishes of Merry Christmas/good health/and a Happy New Year. So to all of you celebrating tomorrow, I wish you all a lovely day filled with lots of cheer and merriment, wherever you are and whoever you are with!