There’s been a lot of talk recently about the desire to put Christ back in Christmas. As a Muslim, I fully support the idea that religious observances should focus on their intended purpose. Many times cultural traditions end up becoming more important than teachings of the faith, especially if the majority is of a similar faith. Unfortunately, cultural traditions can become so entwined with religious observances that it becomes difficult to separate them and focus on what the faith teaches.
Not to say that cultural traditions are a bad thing, but they should be acknowledged for what they are. There should be a healthy balance between religious practices and cultural traditions; and it behooves us to remember how some traditions came to be.
I remember my Jewish neighbor, who grew up in Israel, telling me that she didn’t grow up with the tradition of giving gifts during Hanukkah. She remembers, it wasn’t until an American toy company opened up and started advertising gifts to give for Hanukkah, that it became a thing to do.
As someone living in America, who does not practice Christianity, I appreciate when my religion and our holidays are acknowledged. But, while I get excited if I see displays of Islamic items for sale around our holidays, I keep it in the back of my mind that it’s a sales tactic, and I try really hard to make wise choices.
Muslims have two major holidays. Eid al Fitr (the Holiday of breaking the fast) celebrates the end of the month of Ramadan, a spiritual month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. Eid al Adha (the holiday of the sacrifice), takes place during Hajj season and commemorates the willingness of Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son. The Islamic calendar is based on the cycle of the moon, which means it is 10 days shorter than the solar based Gregorian calendar; therefore, holidays move 10 days from year to year. In recent years our holidays have been in the summer and fall. It’ll be about 20 years before Islamic holidays occur during the winter months again with other holidays.
There are other historical events that some Muslims observe, for example the birth of Prophet Muhammad. But many Muslims have concerns about celebrating his birth. Aside from the fact that it was not done during his lifetime, there is a fear that celebrating the birth of the Prophet will become sensationalized. What Muslims celebrate is largely determined by their cultural norms, which can cause some tensions when living among Muslims who celebrate differently.
People within the Christian faith celebrate in different ways as well. My two devout Christian sisters didn’t participate in the Santa Claus tradition with their children. When living in a pluralistic society, it’s important to remember that people celebrate different holidays in different manners. We shouldn’t be offended if people do or don’t say Merry Christmas; we should allow people to do as their faith, their cultural and familial customs dictate, as long as no one imposes one’s own beliefs on others. It’s not about being “politically correct”, it’s about being considerate and recognizing there are other ideologies out there.
So please put the Christ back in Christmas and remember, as the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas discovered, even without all the trappings, Christmas will still come. Because Christmas, like all religious holidays, is, at its core, a remembrance and appreciation of what God has given us. The best way to show our appreciation is to live our lives the way we are guided to in our perspective faith traditions. Have a Blessed holiday season, however you celebrate.