Although by no means devout, I am Muslim. My dad is from the Middle East and my mum is British. My siblings and I were raised to be Muslim but religion was never really rammed down our throats. My father is fairly westernised in a lot of ways but really strict in others. You know that brilliant film East is East? That resonates a lot. I like to think that my dad allowed us to celebrate Christmas because he didn’t want us to miss out as kids. But the truth is he’s quite a complex man so I’ll probably never know why he didn’t object to it because God only knows he objected loudly to other less non-Muslimy stuff.
Anyway, we celebrated Christmas. We decked up the house, we got presents, we had Christmas dinner. We knew we weren’t Christian and it was supposed to be a Christian festival but hey, most of the people celebrating weren’t really Christians either. We probably knew more about Jesus than they did.
As we got older Christmas became less of a thing. We’d exchange a few gifts but decking out the house and Christmas dinner sort of fell by the wayside somewhere along the line. I’m guessing for a lot of families Christmas doesn’t mean as much when there are no small children believing in the magic anymore.
Now I’ve moved out, got married and have children of my own; and I’m really struggling with Christmas. See, I kind of love it. I love the sparkle, I love the choosing of gifts, I love the excitement on kids’ faces that seems to last for the whole of December. I actually even love wrapping presents. I love all festivals and celebratory occasions to be honest, from Valentines to Halloween. But I feel really guilty about my desire to partake in some Christmassy traditions.
I probably feel more religious now than I ever have in my life and I know that it is against my religion to celebrate the festivals of non-Muslims. Recently I called upon God for a huge favour and he delivered. So it’s a bit rich if I now prance off and celebrate Christmas, even though I know I shouldn’t. My husband would really rather we didn’t acknowledge Christmas at all (what a Scrooge!) and I know some of his reasoning is sound (but I don’t admit it!).
I tell him it’s not really religious, it’s cultural. I tell him we have to think of the kids. I don’t want them to miss out. I don’t want them to feel different in a bad way. Or to wish they weren’t who they are as they grow up.
In Islam Eid is celebrated twice a year but there is no equivalent of Santa. And how amazing and magical is the concept of Santa when you’re a kid?! And Eid over here is quite frankly a bit rubbish because the vast majority of people don’t know it’s going on so there isn’t much “Eid spirit” to be had.
Let’s be honest though, it’s not just about the kids. It’s me too. I don’t want to miss out on that happy Christmassy feeling. I’ll probably continue to struggle with this for a few more years until I find a solution I’m totally happy with but for this year we have a small tree and the kids will get some presents. I’ll cook a Christmas dinner of sorts (halal Turkey is hard to come by) and we’ll be merry for the day.